Ramirez ready for fresh start with Dodgers

Ramirez ready for fresh start with Dodgers

Published Jul. 25, 2012 7:20 p.m. ET

ST. LOUIS — Hanley Ramirez walked into the Dodgers clubhouse at Busch Stadium just after 4 p.m. Wednesday, fresh off a plane from Miami and excited for a clean slate.

He then went out and tripled in his first at-bat with his new club and later lined an RBI single to center in the Dodgers 3-2 12-inning loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ramirez, who has played all but two of his 945 big league games with the Miami Marlins, was shipped to the Dodgers along with left-handed reliever Randy Choate in exchange for talented young starter Nathan Eovaldi and minor-league pitcher Scott McGough.

"I felt comfortable," Ramirez said after the near four-hour game that finished a long and surely memorable day. "It's a great group of guys here and I just went out there and played hard. I'm happy to be here.

"I've been feeling pretty good at the plate lately so I just have to keep it up and finish strong."

The 28-year-old Ramirez moved from shortstop to third base with the Marlins to make room for the signing of Jose Reyes but struggled to find any consistency at the plate. He hit .246 with 14 home runs and 48 RBI in 93 games with Miami.

But Wednesday's trade gives Ramirez the chance for a fresh start — and likely a return to shortstop in the near future.

"It's a new beginning," Ramirez said. "I think everything is going to change."

Batting fifth and playing third base, Ramirez went 2-for-4 with a triple, RBI and walk in his Dodgers debut. He tripled off the wall in center field with one out in the second inning and scored on a sacrifice fly from James Loney a batter later.

Ramirez nearly homered in the fourth inning, hitting a towering fly ball that was caught at the edge of the warning track by Cardinals left-fielder Matt Holliday. He singled home Mark Ellis with a hit in the sixth inning to tie the score at 2. He walked to lead off the 12th inning but was stranded at first.

"Hanley is legit," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who was ejected for arguing a questionable strike zone during a pitching change in the tenth inning. "The guy can play. At the end of the day, that's going to be a good trade. This guy is legit. His body is live, the ball jumps off his bat. We got a good player today."

The slugger had played his entire seven-year career at shortstop before sliding to third base this season when the Marlins signed Jose Reyes in the offseason.

But with Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon out until at least mid-August with a broken right thumb, manager Don Mattingly indicated that his new acquisition will likely move back to his more comfortable spot at shortstop in the next few days.

"What makes us the best team?" Mattingly said. "Is it Hanley at third? Is it Hanley at short? That's what we're after. We're after the best team we can put on the field every day and Dee is in for that, he knows this is a competitive world we're playing in. Hanley said he wants to win and is willing to play anywhere, so that's where we're at."

Mattingly said Ramirez will move to shortstop once he becomes comfortable with his new surroundings and his old position. And the move will be done partly because the Dodgers have more options to rotate in at third base than at shortstop.

"It works best for us right now at short," Mattingly said. "The best answer I got from Hanley was, ‘It doesn't matter. I just want to win,' so that tells me we want to try and put our best club out there when everybody is healthy and he's up for whatever we want to do."

Ramirez could return to third base once Gordon returns, but Mattingly said that would be decided when the time came. Asked if Gordon had any positions he could play other than short, Mattingly quipped, "Not that I'm aware of."

Said Ramirez, "I'll do whatever for the ballclub to help us win games. That's why they got me."

The 2006 National League Rookie of the Year quickly became one of the top shortstops in the game, leading the league in batting in 2009 and finishing second in the MVP race. But Ramirez has seen his numbers decline the past two seasons and hit just .243 while battling injuries last year.

All parties involved hope the move to Los Angeles will rejuvenate the talented infielder and bring back the skills that made him one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball. And his new teammates couldn't be happier to have him.

"It makes the lineup a lot longer to get through," said outfielder Andre Ethier. "Pitchers looking at our lineup before the game and looking at the guys they have to get through, it makes the lineup a lot longer and makes it tougher for a starting pitcher."

Said Gordon, "We got another toy, another big bat. I'm excited. I'm excited for the ballclub and ready to get this thing going and make it to the playoffs."

Asked about whether or not he'll have his spot at shortstop back once he returns in a few weeks, Gordon said, "We'll see. I got a rehab process to keep going through so I'm going to come back healthy and whatever they need me to do, I'm there.

"One thing I do know is I'm in a cast so there's not much I can do. I'm just ready to get back. I had a great conversation with my manager. I'm ready to get back and help this ballclub."

The Dodgers took on the remaining balance of Ramirez's contract as part of the deal, meaning they are on the hook for the rest of the $15 million owed to him this year, $15.5 million in 2013 and $16 million in 2014.

And the Dodgers may not be done. They are searching for a starting pitcher and are looking at other ways to improve before Tuesday's trading deadline as well. Wednesday's trade shows that the new ownership group is committed to putting a winning team on the field.

"They are doing what they said they wanted to do," Mattingly said. "They wanted to basically give us a chance this year. We were built under a different kind of regime so the club we put together was probably not the club this group of ownership would have built during the winter but I think it's a credit really to the guys on the field. They did a nice job of keeping us in it.

"They've hung in it and now it's like saying, we're giving you guys a little help. The trade deadline is always interesting because you can go for that temporary fix but this is one that also has a couple years left and it's a guy that can really play and is in the prime time. This has a chance to be something really good for us for a while."