Hanley Ramirez receives warm welcome from new teammates
ST. LOUIS — At 4:12 p.m. Wednesday, two Busch Stadium clubhouse attendants carried a black duffel bag with “Marlins” stenciled on the side to a locker in the Dodgers’ clubhouse.
There, a Dodgers uniform — with No. 13 sewn on the back for at least this night — hung inside and the attendants began shifting clothing and personal effects from the bag to the locker.
The Hanley Ramirez era of the Dodgers had begun.
Ramirez walked into the clubhouse a few minutes later, Dodgers clubhouse manager Mitch Poole handed him a blue Dodgers cap and, one by one, Dodgers players came by to shake Ramirez’s hand to welcome the three-time All-Star.
They did so again in the second inning of the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, when Ramirez belted a triple off the wall in his first at-bat and then scored their first run on a sacrifice fly by James Loney.
And Ramirez got more high-fives in the sixth inning when he singled home Mark Ellis to tie the score, 2-2, for his first run batted in as a Dodger.
Ramirez’s bat was a key reason why, in a trade late Tuesday, the Dodgers acquired Ramirez and relief pitcher Randy Choate from the Miami Marlins for starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and minor league pitcher Scott McGough.
“I’m happy to be here,” Ramirez said before the game. “I never thought I was going to be traded. It happens. It’s a business. The only thing I can control is just going out there and playing hard every day.”
A career .300 hitter who won the National League batting title in 2009, Ramirez came into Wednesday’s game batting .246 with 14 home runs and 48 runs batted in.
The Dodgers see Ramirez, 28, as joining sluggers Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to bulk up the middle of their offense.
Manager Don Mattingly said Kemp would keep
hitting third in the lineup, with Ethier and Ramirez probably swapping the
next two spots based on matchups with opposing pitchers.
“I’m excited that he’s here,” Kemp said after he and Ramirez took batting practice in the sweltering heat.
“Hanley has been one of the top hitters in the league in the last four years, and if we can get him on track to where he’s been hitting in the past and get him going again, [he] will help us win a lot of baseball games,” Kemp said.
Ethier called Ramirez, the 2006 NL rookie of the year, a “big, impactful bat in our lineup,” and Ethier — who along with Kemp has signed multi-year extensions with the Dodgers — said he was particularly glad that Ramirez has two additional years on his contract.
“It’s a pretty nice thing to know that me, Kemp and Hanley will be here the next two years together, give or take,” Ethier said.
Ramirez said “it’s kind of hard” leaving Florida, where he played seven years, but that he viewed the Dodgers as “a new beginning. I’ll do whatever for the ballclub to help them win.”
A Dominican Republic native known for being temperamental at times, Ramirez mostly played shortstop for the Marlins last year but shifted to third base this season after the signing of Jose Reyes.
Mattingly said he preferred that Ramirez play shortstop for his club, at least for now, in place of the injured Dee Gordon. But because Ramirez hadn’t played shortstop since last year, Mattingly opted to play Ramirez at third base Wednesday.
Gordon, 24, is on the disabled list after injuring his thumb early this month, and his right hand will remain in a cast until Aug. 2.
Whether Ramirez will spend most of his playing time at shortstop or third base after Gordon returns remains to be seen. “I’m going to come back healthy and whatever they need me to do, I’m there,” Gordon said.
Gordon was batting only .229 when he was hurt, but he had 30 stolen bases, and Mattingly acknowledged Wednesday that despite Ramirez’s arrival, “we still don’t have a true leadoff guy” in the lineup.
“We have absolutely no problems with Dee,” Mattingly said, but he added that “he’s a young kid who needs to keep proving himself.”
Some Dodgers applauded the trade as evidence of the team’s new ownership trying to quickly produce a title contender.
“I like what management is doing,” Kemp said. “We don’t want to build for next year. We want to win now.”
Ramirez wore No. 2 at Miami, but that number is retired by the Dodgers because it was worn by former manager Tom Lasorda. So Ramirez wore No. 13 on Wednesday.
Choate, meanwhile, gives the Dodgers another left-handed relief pitcher in addition to Scott Elbert.
Now in his 13th big league season, Choate this year has held opposing hitters to a .178 batting average, with left-handers batting only .150.
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