Hanley Ramirez gave the Los Angeles Dodgers a good look at what he can bring to the table Wednesday night.
Ramirez, traded from Miami earlier in the day, went 2 for 4 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored in his debut, but it wasn’t enough to lift the Dodgers in a 3-2, 12-inning loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Still, Ramirez felt good about his first game with a new team.
”I feel comfortable,” Ramirez said. ”Great group of guys here; you just go out there and have fun. I’m happy to be here.”
Hoping for a smooth transition, Ramirez started at third base. After moving from shortstop when the Marlins signed Jose Reyes, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Ramirez will return to his old position as soon as he’s comfortable with a switch.
Ramirez took to wearing the Dodger blue right away, hitting a triple off the center-field wall in his first at-bat.
”I thought it was a pop-up to center to be honest,” Ramirez said. ”It just kept going and going.”
Los Angeles acquired the three-time All-Star and former NL batting champion along with reliever Randy Choate, while the Marlins received pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and minor league pitcher Scott McGough.
Choate pitched a scoreless inning in relief in his debut.
”The extra innings get you in the game,” Choate said. ”It’s just been kind of a long day.”
Mattingly’s day ended a little early when he was ejected in the 10th inning by home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg for arguing balls and strikes. Mattingly was still upset afterward.
”Nothing really happened,” he said. ”I was just getting frustrated. The strike zone was horrible.”
The 28-year-old Ramirez said before the game 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 coming in.
”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 have won five of seven and are 2 1/2 games behind NL West-leading San Francisco.
”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.
Ramirez’s bat gives Mattingly a big three to anchor the lineup along with Matt 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.”’
Prior to 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.”
NOTES: David Freese had two hits for St. Louis. He is batting .565 (13 for 23) during an eight-game hitting streak. … Dodgers starter Chris Capuano (10-5) can match his win total for 2011 with a victory Thursday. He’ll have to reverse some history – he is winless in five career games at Busch Stadium (0-3, 7.04 ERA). … Lohse’s quality start was the 20th in a row for the Cardinals.