Hanley Ramirez to shift to shortstop
ST. LOUIS -- Not long after putting on a Dodgers uniform, Hanley Ramirez took ground balls at shortstop. It probably won't be long before he's there on a regular basis.
Ramirez, who was moved to third base in Miami this year to make room for Jose Reyes, started at third and batted fifth against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night. Manager Don Mattingly said Ramirez will return to his old position as soon as he's comfortable with a switch.
Ramirez appeared comfortable in Dodger blue right away, hitting a triple off the center-field wall in his first at-bat.
"Hanley has been one of the top hitters in the league for the last four years," Dodgers star Matt Kemp said. "I think this new team will kind of motivate him to do some great things."
Earlier in the day, Los Angeles announced it had acquired the three-time All-Star and former NL batting champion from Miami. The Dodgers also got reliever Randy Choate, while the Marlins received pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and minor league pitcher Scott McGough.
The 28-year-old Ramirez said he didn't care where he played, emphasizing how happy he is to join a contender. He declined to blame his off-year offensively on the position switch and agreed with suggestions that this was a fresh start.
He was batting .246 with 14 homers and 48 RBIs in 93 games.
"Yeah, why not? It's a new beginning," Ramirez said. "I've just got to go out there and have fun."
Ramirez's new teammates sensed the commitment from ownership to keep charging. The Dodgers had won five of six and were close behind NL West-leading San Francisco when the deal was made.
"Yeah, it's no excuses now," lefty ace Clayton Kershaw said. "Last year we had excuse, excuse, excuse and we ended up playing pretty well in the second half, and this year it's pretty much all on us."
Mattingly has been using a combination of Juan Uribe, Adam Kennedy and Jerry Hairston Jr. at third base, and career minor leaguer Luis Cruz has been starting at shortstop in place of injured Dee Gordon.
"It works best for us right now at short," Mattingly said. "The best answer I got from Hanley was, 'It doesn't matter. Third or short, I just want to win.'"
Mattingly added that he'd be patient with Ramirez.
"It's really just up to him as far as I'm concerned, it's not something I'm going to see that he's ready," the manager said. "It's going to be more like he tells me he's ready, I'm playing short."
After getting announced to zero response from a near-sellout crowd for his first at-bat in the second, Ramirez tripled against Kyle Lohse and scored on a sacrifice fly by James Loney to give the Dodgers an early lead.
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Ramirez's bat gives Mattingly a big three to anchor the lineup card along with Kemp and Andre Ethier. Kemp found out about the trade sitting in bed checking Twitter.
"I was like 'Whoa, that can't be true,' " Kemp said. "And then I saw more tweets and more and I was like 'Wow, I guess this is true.' "
Before the trade, the Dodgers were in the bottom half of the National League in most offensive categories.
Mattingly advised Ramirez to take a deep breath and just be himself. He said he wouldn't worry about whatever happened in the past
"I'm sure he's going to want to show people he can play," Mattingly said. "But we'll be mindful of just reminding him that we just want him to play.
"Have good at-bats, play the game, and do his thing. That's all we'll ask."
Gordon also took grounders Wednesday wearing a green cast on his right hand and wrist for a torn thumb ligament. Ramirez could move back to third when Gordon returns, but the cast isn't due to come off until Aug. 2 and he'll need rehab time after that.
At any rate, Mattingly said he wouldn't be moving Ramirez around the diamond.
"I want more and more guys to know, 'Here's our third baseman, here's our second baseman, here's our center fielder, here's our right fielder," he said.
The trade leaves the Dodgers without a scheduled starter for Friday night at San Francisco. Mattingly said they'll likely dip into the minors.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press