Hanley Ramirez, with his offensive production and defensive range limited by a body that is betraying him, nonetheless insisted on playing Friday.
"I can still help this team win games," Ramirez said.
Ramirez, making only his second start in the last 10 games, didn't play a prominent role in a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies that moved the Dodgers back into first place. He drew a couple of walks and was replaced in the eighth inning for defensive purposes by rookie Erisbel Arruebarrena.
The central figures on this night were Zack Greinke, who limited the Rockies to two runs over eight innings, and Juan Uribe, who drove in Matt Kemp for the go-ahead run in the ninth inning.
Earlier in the day, Ramirez said that as long as the Dodgers win, his individual statistics meant nothing to him. And while he would rather play than sit on the bench, winning made that more tolerable too.
"If the team's going good, it makes you feel better," Ramirez said.
Still, he didn't want to be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
"They want me to take it easy," he said, "I can't do it."
To be cleared to play, Ramirez had to show trainers in a pregame workout he could run at full speed.
Ramirez made it sound as if the strained left calf and irritated right shoulder that were responsible for his recent absences hadn't completely healed. Manager Don Mattingly said Ramirez wouldn't play every game leading up to the All-Star break and probably would be the team's designated hitter for both games of their upcoming two-game set against the Detroit Tigers.
Ramirez will be a free agent this winter, and concerns about his health could affect the kinds of contract offers he receives. A broken thumb and strained hamstring forced him to miss 76 games last season.
However, Ramirez said he hasn't set any benchmarks for games played that he would like to reach.
Ramirez said he was confident his body would completely heal without him spending 15 days on the disabled list. He also said he felt better than he did last year, when he was received treatment on his left shoulder and lower back for much of the season.
Ramirez stopped smiling and turned defensive when asked how his injuries have affected his performance.
"So what's the difference?" he asked. "The average? What am I hitting?"
He is batting .269 with 11 home runs and 46 runs batted in in 78 games.
Last season, he batted .345 with 20 home runs and 57 RBIs in 86 games.
Asked whether he thought he could hit like that again, he said, "The past is the past. I never think about the past. I don't care about numbers. I don't care what people think. The only thing I care about is winning games. Numbers, at the end of the year, they're going to be there.
"We are only 80-something games through the season. What do I need? Nine more homers to get 20? How many months I got left? I can hit three and then two, how many will that be? Sixteen? I don't care about numbers. People hit .220 and win the World Series. What's better?"
He had a similar reaction when asked about his defense.
"How many errors I've got?" he asked. "Do you look around, the other shortstops, how many they've got?"
Ramirez has made 10 errors. Six NL shortstops have made more.
But advanced metrics rate Ramirez's among the worst defenders at his position.
"I'm not trying to put negative things in my mind," he said. "Like Donnie says, 'I see you work every day out there, trying to get better, that's all I care.' That's what I'm trying to do every day. Get better and better and better."
Asked how important he considered himself to be to the Dodgers' championship aspirations, Ramirez pointed to the likes of Dee Gordon, Yasiel Puig and Dan Haren, who have played better than expected.
"Sometimes, you're not going to get what you expect," he said. "Sometimes you're going to get what you didn't expect from some guys. That is life, that is baseball."
He leaned back and smiled.
Of the expectations he faces, he said, "That's my fault. Hitting .350 with 20 homers and I don't know how many RBIs in 80-something games. Now, I should be hitting .700 with 40 homers and almost 200 RBIs. That's my fault. But I tell you what: The only thing I can do is keep working hard every day to get better. It's what I do every day."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times