When did Hanley Ramirez turn it up? Depends on who you ask.

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez is hitting .538 in the first four games of the National League Division Series. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff photographer)

Hanley Ramirez‘s 3-for-4, two-RBI performance Sunday sparked some discussion about how Ramirez turned his career around.

Ramirez won a batting title with the Marlins in 2009, but didn’t hit above .300 in a single season since. This year, he batted .345 in the regular season with a 1.040 OPS that led the team. His six extra-base hits in this playoff series have matched a team record set by Steve Garvey in 1978. His batting average in the four games is .538.

So when did Ramirez turn it up?

“I saw a big difference in Hanley coming back from the (World Baseball Classic), a passion for winning,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. “A passion for competing. He made himself a better hitter.”

Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci (who to my knowledge hasn’t interviewed Ramirez this season) said on TBS last night that the transformation came more recently.

Yasiel Puig really lit a fire under [Ramirez]. He saw the kind of energy that Puig brought to the game and he has followed suit,” Verducci said. “He’s the most dangerous hitter in their lineup. They have a great lineup and he is the guy that would scare me the most.”

Ramirez said the turning point came even sooner, when he arrived in Los Angeles last year.

“I knew what I was going through the last two years after that big surgery on my left shoulder” in Sept. 2011, he said after Game 3. “I wasn’t feeling the same. So I knew that I’ve got to put extra work on my shoulder to get back on track.

“After I got here, the medical staff, man, they’ve been unbelievable. I think they’re part of my success, you know? I think I wouldn’t be where I am right now without them. And my teammates, you know, they show me a lot of support all year long. I really appreciate that. You don’t go anywhere without your teammates and whoever is around you.”

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.