Hanley Ramirez’s production has declined in recent seasons, but Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly thinks his newly acquired infielder can perform like a franchise player again.
“At the age that Hanley is, it’s been there once, I know it’s still there,” Mattingly said.
Ramirez, 28, has had shoulder problems that resulted in season-ending surgery last year. The three-time All-Star is hitting .246, far below the .342 he hit when he was the National League’s batting champion in 2009.
But Ramirez’s power numbers are back up — he has 14 home runs and 48 runs batted in — and General Manager Ned Colletti said the Dodgers medical staff is comfortable with the condition of his shoulder.
Ramirez is expected to join the Dodgers in St. Louis on Wednesday and will immediately change the look of their lineup, which has been largely reliant on two players, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.
Ramirez’s agent, Adam Katz, believes his client will benefit from a change in environment.
“It wasn’t working over there in Miami for both sides,” Katz said.
Ramirez has been described as moody and come under attack on occasion for a perceived lack of effort, but Mattingly said he wouldn’t be subjected to any preconceived notions in the Dodgers clubhouse.
“I just look at it as a clean slate and a new relationship I’m going to be able to build,” Mattingly said.
The deal might not have happened if not for a conversation Colletti had with Katz late Tuesday night.
Katz assured him that the notoriously temperamental Ramirez was on board with the move.
“If it wasn’t going to be there,” Katz said of Miami, “this was his first choice. It’s a great environment. It’s a great place to go to work. They have outstanding new ownership.”
But learning of the trade was “bittersweet” for Ramirez, the agent acknowledged.
“He’s been a Marlin his whole career,” Katz said.
Shortly after the trade was consummated, Colletti and Mattingly both spoke to Ramirez on the phone.
Ramirez expressed a willingness to play anywhere on the field. He was a shortstop for his entire career until this year, when he moved to third base to accommodate free-agent addition Jose Reyes. Reports surfaced over the off-season that Ramirez was unhappy about the switch, but Ramirez denied that was the case.
Mattingly said Ramirez will initially play shortstop and could move to third base when Dee Gordon returns from a thumb injury. But Mattingly did not say that would definitely be the case, casting doubt over Gordon’s future role with the club.
“Dee’s a young kid who needs to keep proving himself,” Mattingly said.
Ramirez’s arrival could also mean Juan Uribe’s disappointing stint with the Dodgers is nearing the end. The projected starter at third base when the season opened, Uribe is batting .190 and has been reduced to a part-time role.
Ramirez has stolen as many as 51 bases in a season, but Mattingly intends to use him as a cleanup or No. 5 hitter.
“I look at him as a middle-of-the-order guy,” Mattingly said. “We got a three-hole hitter in Matt Kemp. That’s not changing in my mind.”
The Dodgers will remain active in the trade market. Colletti said he is looking to add a starting pitcher and another position player.