Hanley Ramirez is officially switching back to shortstop.
After he moved to third base last season in Miami to accommodate shortstop Jose Reyes, the Dodgers are sliding him back to his original position. The club wants him to focus on his defensive shortcomings, which is why the Dodgers gave Ramirez permission to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic this offseason.
“We need him to put time in to be a better shortstop,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told the Los Angeles Times . “If Hanley plays short and he can play the way he’s capable of playing it, I’m not really concerned about third.”
Ramirez’s days at the hot corner aren’t quite over just yet. With Reyes likely to start at shortstop for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, Ramirez is slated to take the reins at third base one last time.
It’s not the ideal situation for Mattingly, who wants Ramirez to stay with the organization for all of spring training to work on his fielding. However, the skipper understands Ramirez’s allegiance to his country.
“It’s hard to discourage a guy playing for his country,” Mattingly said. “If I could, if he would listen, I would certainly talk to him because we would like him to play short.”
With Ramirez playing shortstop, the Dodgers intend on starting journeyman Luis Cruz at third base. If Cruz fails to produce, the club could replace him with former Red Sox utilityman Nick Punto.