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Hanley Ramirez Off To Another Slow April

   ATLANTA -- Hanley Ramirez told reporters on the first day of spring training that his goal was to get off to a fast start this season. So far, that isn't happening.

    After going 0 for 4 on Tuesday in his first game back from Friday's takedown in Houston, Ramirez is now hitting just .182 with zero home runs, three runs scored, two RBI and one stolen base. Those are hardly the MVP-caliber numbers everyone on the Marlins -- from owner Jeffrey Loria on down -- expected to see from the shortstop.

    Yes, it's still very early. The Marlins have played the equivalent of one NFL game, let's not forget.

    But Ramirez didn't swing the bat last April, ending the month with a .279 aveage, and isn't doing so now. The Marlins need his bat. That much is obvious 10 games into the season. They were shut out last night, have hit the fewest home runs of any team in the NL, and have scored the second-fewest runs in the league. Only the Twins have hit fewer home runs (3) than the Marlins (5) among all major league

    Should Ramirez's early-season slump be cause for concern?

    BULLPEN -- Another strong performance last night by the Marlins' bullpen, which is piling up the innings as the 3-4-5 starters continue to struggle. The Marlins' pen has the second-lowest ERA of any relief corps in the NL (2.25 to Philadelphia's 1.93). Their .195 batting average against figure is the best in the league.

    CROWDS -- Quick early observation: attendance appeared down in the Marlins' first four road games, three in Houston and last night's here in Atlanta. In fact, last night's announced figure of 13,865 was the lowest in the 14-year history of Turner Field. There were plenty of empty seats at Minute Maid Park for their home opener on Friday, and tons of them Saturday and Sunday.

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