Dodgers sprinkle three hits in Taiwan
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Dodgers brought Manny Ramirez to Taiwan, but they didn't exactly bring their bats to the first game of the three-game exhibition series against the Chinese Professional Baseball League All-Stars at Tien Mu Stadium Friday night.
Looking -- and swinging -- like a team still recovering from a 15-hour flight and 16-hour time change, the Dodgers fell 5-2 and recorded just three hits.
Taiwanese native Chin-lung Hu provided the only offense for the Dodgers, driving in both runs in the top of the eighth with a single up the middle.
"The team is a little bit tired, everyone looking that way, and I feel it," Hu said. "It feels different that a normal spring training game, but I think we can do better tomorrow and the next day."
After charming crowds around the capital city of Taipei at promotional appearances earlier in the day, Ramirez drove two fly balls to the warning track in center field, but could manage no hits in his three at-bats.
The Chinese team scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth off Dodgers minor-leaguer Hyang-Nam Choi, and then added three more runs in the bottom of the seventh off minor-leaguers Jesus Castillo and Mario Alvarez.
Starter Eric Stults, one of the leading candidates for the Dodgers fifth-starter spot, pitched three scoreless innings before being lifted for Choi.
"It's part of what you have to do, there's no excuses," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "They beat us and hopefully we can get even tomorrow."
Though the Dodgers lost, it was a successful day for Ramirez. His visit to the International Flora exhibition drew a large crowd and was hailed in the local press as huge success despite it being widely-reported locally that he is being paid $170,000 to make the trip.
Everywhere he went -- from a shopping mall to buy a camera and then a lunch of shark-fin soup and noodles at Taiwan's famed Tapei 101 tower, to the lobby of the Dodgers team hotel in Taipei -- Ramirez was greeted with throngs of fans and paparazzi.
"I thank you guys for letting the Dominican players come here to play the game I love," Ramirez said at the Flora exhibit, where he exchanged gifts with local dignitaries and helped plant a tree.
"It's a great experience to be here in Taiwan, that's why I came here. I like to travel and see the world. I like your culture, you treat everybody with respect, and I'm just happy to be here."
Though the loss may seem to be an upset, it's actually similar to what happened 17 years ago, when the Dodgers came to Taiwan. The roster in October of 1993 was a mostly-complete major league roster, but the Dodgers still lost two of three games to the local side.
First baseman James Loney, who was 1-for-3 in Friday's loss, said the Taiwanese pitchers were throwing in the mid-to-high 80s and changing speeds well.
"They're good at keeping you off balance," Loney said. "They were throwing pretty well tonight, too."
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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