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The new and improved Hanley Ramirez

When Hanley Ramirez came to bat with runners in scoring position last season, there wasn’t a player hitting better than .300 in baseball that had less success than him. Ramirez was putrid when the pressure was on, hitting just .239 (26 for 109) when the Marlins needed a big hit.

Hanley Ramirez Now, there isn’t a hitter in baseball having more success than the 25-year old shortstop when teammates are standing on second or third. Entering Monday night’s series opener against the Nationals, Ramirez was hitting .433 with runners in scoring position (29 for 67) and 39 RBI.

His new knack for coming up with clutch hits is part of the reason why he earned NL Co-Player of the Week honors Monday. Last week, he hit two grand slams and drove in 17 runs in six games versus the Orioles and Rays. He also led the majors with 24 RBI and the NL with 25 hits in interleague play.

Not bad for a guy who had mainly hit leadoff until this season when the Marlins moved him into the cleanup role and then the No. 3 spot. So, what's been the key to the new and improved Hanley?

“His approach at the plate is a lot better hitting in that spot,” Cantu said. “Last year, he got into a little bit of trouble when he was hitting in that spot. Experience is all it is. Everyday is a learning experience. He’s learned how to work the count in those situations with runners in scoring position. It’s all about looking at more pitches when you have that runner over there.”

Said Gonzalez: “I’ve always said since the first day I was here he could be that type of player. This year from the very first day I’ve see him get better and better and better with it.”

Ramirez credits Hall of Famer Tony Perez, who usually watches the Marlins during batting practice, for some of the change in his approach.

“We always talk,” Ramirez said. “He’s helped me understand game situations better, what you have to do when you have runners on base. I’d tell you, but I can’t give away all the tricks.

“I appreciate it. Not everyone in baseball likes to help out others. He’s been doing that since the first day I got here.”

CALERO EYES D-BACKS RETURN: Right-hander Kiko Calero, one of two bullpen arms on the disabled list, thinks he will be able to rejoin the Marlins on their road trip next week.

Calero threw 20 pitches – all fastballs – from the mound Monday, his first pitching session since he went on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation June 18.

He will pitch two more bullpen sessions (Wednesday and Friday) before going on a pair of rehab assignments according to Gonzalez. “I would like to make sure I feel fine,” Calero said. “I don’t want to come back for three weeks and go back to the DL. I want to make sure I feel fine and I can pitch the whole year. I told them I would like to pitch in the last series [versus the Diamondbacks] and face big league guys before the break.”