Maybe Hanley Ramirez was right when he said that getting game experience at shortstop in the Winter League isn’t as valuable as practicing before the game begins.
Ramirez got a chance to validate his self-confidence in the second inning Saturday. The first batter, Dayan Viciedo, hit a ground ball up the middle. Ramirez ranged to his left, fielded the ball cleanly, then spun and threw Viciedo out.
This was not a revolutionary play for Ramirez. He’s proven himself equally capable of making a splashy highlight and a boneheaded error over the better part of seven major-league seasons at shortstop. Saturday’s small sample size revealed nothing new. As Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said earlier in the week, “On any given day when he’s out there, he’s got a really good chance of being the best player on that field.”
The key to that specific play? “It’s timing,” Ramirez said. “We’ve been working on that.”
Ramirez, who came into camp eight pounds lighter than a year ago, could probably have charged the ball harder, but that might have created a more difficult throw to first base. He could have embellished his spin to get more on the throw, but that would have been unnecessary with Viciedo running. His approach was both smooth and effective. Ramirez has roughly another week with the Dodgers to perfect his timing before he leaves for the WBC, but it appears he won’t need it.
There was one other timing play early in the game for Ramirez, an attempted pickoff at second base. It didn’t work; Ramirez said he couldn’t see Clayton Kershaw‘s throw to the base. The ball skipped into center field and the runner, Alejandro De Aza, went to third base. The error was charged to Kershaw.
At least Ramirez’s timing was on point — he was there to receive the ball — even if his eyesight was not.
“I like the fact that he puts on the pick,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said, adding that it showed Ramirez “has the confidence to put it on.”
Self-confidence is never a bad thing, but one week’s worth of games — assuming Ramirez plays that much — is a flawed sample. Ramirez can have an amazing series of spring training games at shortstop in February, but that shouldn’t be used a barometer for future performance after he returns from the WBC (which could take him away from the team for up to three weeks). Then, of course, he’ll have to get his timing back at the position, since Jose Reyes will play shortstop for the Dominican Republic.
Keep that in mind no matter what Ramirez does in the field today.