Block out the noise: Starlin Castro gives credit to Aramis Ramirez

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Block out the noise: Starlin Castro gives credit to Aramis Ramirez

PHOENIX Aramis Ramirez wasnt the first guy in the clubhouse and the last to leave the ballpark. He liked to plug in his headphones and spend time on his laptop.

Ramirez has a reserved personality and isnt a natural leader, but he could make people listen, especially the Latin players. That usually got lost in all the talk about his body language, but Starlin Castro picked it up right away, a few pieces to the education of an All-Star shortstop.

As Castro recalled: He told me: If you do something wrong, the fans will say something to you. Dont worry about it. Take that out of your mind and play baseball.'

Its OK, dont worry, that happened to me a lot of times, too.

The Cubs returned to Maryvale Baseball Park on Saturday, one year after Ramirez had to be separated from Carlos Silva in the dugout. Ramirez, Castro and Koyie Hill had each committed errors in a six-run first inning and it almost exploded into a fight. It became a billboard for dysfunction, but Ramirez showed some fire and stuck up for Castro.

It was an incident thats not supposed to happen, Ramirez said. (Silva said) something hes not supposed to. Nobody wants to make errors. I stood up and it wasnt pretty.

The Cubs have moved on and Ramirez is wearing a Milwaukee Brewers uniform. Dale Sveum a former Brewers player, coach and interim manager is running the show now, trying to get Castro to attack the ball and be on alert every play.

Castro drilled his first home run this spring during a 6-1 victory over the Brewers, but says that his individual goals revolve around getting better on defense.

Hes got another year under his belt, Ramirez said. Hes young, but hes real talented and hes smart. The only downside for him last year was his focus. Thats why he made a lot of errors, but hes going to get better.

Castros got all the tools. Hes got good hands, good feet. He moves well. Hes just got to concentrate a little better and hes going to get the job done. Offensively, hes one of the best hitters right now. He got 200 hits at (age) 21, so hes only going to get better. Defensively, hes got to work a bit.

Ramirez got to the big leagues one month before his 20th birthday, and believes he knows what it takes at this level. Thats why Ramirez told Darwin Barney in 2010 to work out hard in the offseason, because he could take the job at second base. Barney had never really heard that before from anyone else in the organization.

Yes, teammates didnt always appreciate the personal considerations that Ramirez received. He had trouble staying healthy and in the lineup, but was still among the most productive third basemen in the game.

Remember that Castro committed three errors and got booed during his Wrigley Field debut in 2010 and could have wilted. The talking heads debated whether he should be moved to another position, and Bobby Valentine wouldnt let his mental lapses go during an ESPN Sunday night broadcast last season.

Castro led the league with 29 errors last year, but it was in Chicago and not Double-A Tennessee. Ramirez tried to help Castro through his first two seasons, and maybe now some of it will sink in.

If you ask him, hed be the first one to tell you, Ramirez said. Yeah, we talked a lot. Thats why I say hes smart, because he asks a lot of questions. He wants to get better. He works hard. Theres a lot of stuff that the fans or the media dont see. Hes out there taking groundballs early almost every day. Im sure its going to pay off.

Its too late to rewrite the legacy of Ramirez on the North Side, but national perceptions might change if he wins a World Series in Milwaukee. And if Castro really does mature into a franchise player, Ramirez will have to get a little bit of credit.

Its tough to see your teammate play for another team, Castro said. Thats baseball. You dont know where youre going to finish your career. Hes a good guy. I learned from him a lot.

If you did something wrong or you did something good, hed tell you.

Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell tied for lead at Tour Championship

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Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell tied for lead at Tour Championship

ATLANTA (AP) — Dustin Johnson had a reasonable lie in the rough and only a few pine tree branches blocking his path to the 17th green. Neither seemed like a problem until he played the wrong shot, clipped the tree and wound up with a double bogey Saturday in the Tour Championship.

It was an example of how one hole can change everything at East Lake.

And it's why the final round of the PGA Tour season suddenly has more scenarios than Johnson cares to consider.

Johnson recovered with a birdie from the bunker on the par-5 18th for a 1-under 69, giving him a share of the lead with Kevin Chappell (68) going into the last round that will determine who wins the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.

For the first time since 2009, there's a chance it might not be the same player.

"There's a lot of scenarios that could happen," Johnson said. "But yeah, I'm still going to go out and try to shoot as low a score as possible."

Johnson only has to win or finish second alone to claim the $10 million bonus as the FedEx Cup champion.

Rory McIlroy, who has gone 28 holes without a bogey at East Lake, had three birdies over his last six holes for a 66 and was two shots behind. If he were to win the Tour Championship and Johnson finished in a two-way tie for second or worse, McIlroy would claim the FedEx Cup.

"It would just be great to try to win the Tour Championship, and if the chips fall my way, then so be it," McIlroy said.

The winner of the Tour Championship has won the FedEx Cup every year since 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the tournament and Tiger Woods won the FedEx Cup.

Johnson led by as many as four shots when he ran off three straight birdies on the front nine, and he really didn't do much wrong to give up the size of that lead. He had a three-putt from 70 feet on No. 13, and missed the fairway by a few feet on the next hole, enough that his ball was buried so deep that even Johnson and his power couldn't advance more than about 135 yards.

It was the 17th hole that reshaped the tournament.

Johnson tried to played a fade from a flyer lie in the rough, and the ball came out high and hit a branch, leaving him in more rough about 60 yards short of the green. He put that in the bunker, blasted out to 6 feet and missed the putt to make double bogey.

Chappell rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt for a three-shot swing on the hole and suddenly had the lead, only for Johnson to catch him with the final birdie.

They were at 8-under 202.

Chappell, a runner-up three times this season who has never won on the PGA Tour, has made only one bogey in 54 holes this week, a show of consistency, discipline and a few good breaks when he does miss the fairway.

His next chance at a breakthrough victory is to face golf's best player at the moment (Johnson), with McIlroy and Ryan Moore (66) two shots behind.

"I've always kind of been the underdog, so it's a role I'm comfortable in," Chappell said.

Moore went out in 31 until he was slowed by a pair of bogeys, though very much in the mix just two shots out of the lead. The mystery is whether anything he does on Sunday - even if that means a victory - is enough for Davis Love III to use his last captain's pick on Moore for the Ryder Cup.

"I came here this week to win a golf tournament, and I'm 100 percent focused on that," Moore said, adding that the Ryder Cup is "completely out of my control."

And that's how the last day is shaping up for everyone - post a score and see where it leads.

Johnson, for a moment, looked as though he might take all the drama out of the season-ender when he made a 15-foot par putt early in his round and then ran off three straight birdies on the front nine to go four shots clear.

The putter cooled off, however, and Chappell stayed in range.

Chappell chipped in on No. 12 to match birdies and stay three shots behind, and then he quickly closed the gap when Johnson made back-to-back bogeys, only to respond with a 4-iron over the water to a peninsula green on the par-3 15th to 15 feet for birdie.

The 17th hole changed everything.

"I thought about just trying to hit it in the front bunker, which I probably should have done - probably would have made 4 if I'd have done that," Johnson said. "But it is what it is. I came back and birdied the last hole, tied for the lead going into tomorrow. I like my position."

And he doesn't need a degree in math to figure out the easiest scenario - just win.

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