- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

MIAMI (AP) - Chatting with Hanley Ramirez during batting practice, Jack McKeon wrapped an arm around the struggling shortstop, whacked his arm and jabbed him several times in the stomach.

Maybe a hands-on approach by the new Florida Marlins interim manager will jump-start Ramirez. Maybe a move to the cleanup spot will, too.

Ramirez, battling a season-long slump, batted fourth for the first time in his career Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels. The lineup was the second drawn up by McKeon since he took over Monday.

“Hanley’s a potential No. 4 hitter,” McKeon said. “We’ve all known that. We’ve just got to find a way to get him going. Now he’s in the key spot and I think he’ll respond. I had a nice chat with him today. He’s in a great frame of mind.”

It showed: Ramirez went 2 for 4 _ his first multi-hit game since May 21 _ and helped the Marlins break an 11-game losing streak with a 5-2 win.

“I was really impressed with the way he came to the ballpark and the attitude he had and the confidence,” McKeon said. “It looked like he was very comfortable and enjoying himself.”

McKeon held Ramirez out of the starting lineup Monday, saying he didn’t like the way the All-Star shortstop ran in the Marlins‘ previous game. But if Ramirez was in the doghouse with the new skipper, he didn’t stay there long.

Ramirez’s reaction to being given the cleanup job by McKeon?

“Happy _ like a little kid when he sees candies,” Ramirez said. “Obviously he knows what kind of player I am. I haven’t showed it this year, but he believes in me, and I believe in myself.”

The Marlins are desperate for offense and only 2-19 in June. Ramirez went into Tuesday’s game hitting .200, fourth-worst in the majors and way below his career average of .306. His slugging percentage of .295 was fifth-worst, and he had just four homers and 17 RBIs in 55 games.

Ramirez has divided his career evenly between hitting first and third. The 2009 NL batting champion figures moving into the cleanup spot might help him shake his slump because he likes batting with runners on base.

“Hitting fourth, you’ve got to concentrate,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of things in my head. I’ve just got to go out there, see the ball and hit.”

Ramirez said he has searched in vain all season to find his timing at the plate, and he conceded he’s frustrated by his slump.

“As soon as I get home and see my kids and my wife, I concentrate on them,” he said. “But you’ve got to think about it a little when you’ve got 24 guys waiting on you to turn it around.”

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