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September 23, 2017

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Ramirez goes 2-6 in local debut as Rhinos go down to Elephants

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Legendary Major League Baseball (MLB) slugger Manny Ramirez went 2 for 6 with two singles during his debut in Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL, 中華職棒) last night in the southern city of Kaohsiung.

His team, the EDA Rhinos (義大犀牛), lost to the Brother Elephants (兄弟象) 9-8 at the Chengching Lake Baseball Stadium (澄清湖棒球場), the Rhinos' home stadium, in the 12th inning.

Under the gaze of a capacity crowd of 20,000, Ramirez, the Rhinos' No. 4 batter, stepped up to the CPBL home plate for the first time.

His debut was in the bottom of the first inning. He was facing Elephants' American starter Mike Ballard.

Ramirez hit a flyball to the left field for the third out to end the frame.

In the second inning, Manny again stepped up to the plate, this time facing rookie right-hander Wu Ming-hsu (吳明旭). The ex-Red Sox outfielder hit a line-drive single to left field for his first hit in Taiwan.

Ramirez's first hit contributed to his team's five-run rally during the inning. He hit another single in the fourth, also against Wu.

In a later appearance, Ramirez was struck out by Japanese reliever Hiroki Sanada.

With the game tied at eight each and two runners on base, Ramirez was unable to deliver in the bottom of the eighth against Elephants closer Brad Thomas.

Ramirez's last at bat of the game ended in an infield out in the 11th inning.

Both teams' starting pitchers had trouble early in the game.

Rhinos starter Lin Ko-chien (林克謙) gave up four runs on two walks and three consecutive hits in the opening inning. He was taken off after retiring only two batters.

Lin's counterpart Ballard was relieved in the second after giving up five runs.

Ramirez to Boost Ticket Sales

Ramirez, the most famous foreign player ever to join the CPBL, officially signed with the Rhinos on March 12.

The Kaohsiung-based team reportedly offered a NT$750,000 (US$25,000) monthly salary to the 40-year-old ex-MLB All-Star — the highest any team in the league has given to a foreign player.

Ramirez's participation in the CPBL came amid renewed enthusiasm for the sport in Taiwan, following Taiwan's best ever performance in the World Baseball Classic.

Ramirez's arrival at the Rhinos, a new CPBL team, is expected to boost ticket sales in the local league, which had been losing fan support following multiple game-fixing scandals over its 24-year history.

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