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Better focus key for White Sox Ramirez

Focus improving at plate for Ramirez

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CHICAGO -- Alexei Ramirez has drawn 18 walks over the course of the season, and that total represents a great increase in patience for the talented White Sox shortstop.

During the entire 2008 campaign, a season in which Ramirez quickly developed into one of the top rookies in the game, he was issued only 18 free passes in total.

It's safe to say that his current overall offensive improvement, raising his average from .200 to .262 over his past 38 games, is not due to greater selectivity at the plate. Instead, hitting coach Greg Walker puts Ramirez's return to form more on the mental intangibles.

"On a given year, with a guy that has an approach that he swings at a lot of balls out of the zone, it comes down to a focus level," Walker said. "There are going to be years when confidence and focus are better than others, and those are going to be when he has big years.

"Did he have a career year in 2008? Probably. But maybe he lost confidence early in this season and was trying to do too much. His focus was not as good, at times. He's looked bad at times, and he's not getting the consistency he had. But he's still giving us a lot of production."

Ramirez batted .290 last year, with 21 home runs and 77 RBIs. He also hit an amazing .380 with 57 RBIs with runners in scoring position. Ramirez entered Wednesday's game with eight home runs and 34 RBIs, to go with a .297 average with runners in scoring position.

As Walker pointed out, those numbers aren't quite up to last year's lofty standards. But Ramirez continues to free swing his way to considerable success.

"Hitting .380 with runners in scoring position, well, it's tough to duplicate those numbers," Walker said. "He's still in striking distance of .280, with [34] RBIs. Everybody deems that as not such a great year, but he's still pretty doggone good."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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