Hanley Ramirez turned a few heads Saturday by taking ground balls at third base before the Dodgers’ game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
That was the point, manager Don Mattingly said Sunday.
“I think he likes making everybody raise their eyes and making me answer questions,” Mattingly said.
Question: will Ramirez be a third baseman once he’s activated from the 15-day disabled list?
“No real talk of that,” Mattingly said.
For those who put stock into Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) as a measure of a player’s defensive ability, that’s a bit stunning. Miguel Rojas, who’s been playing shortstop in Ramirez’s stead, ranks first among major-league shortstops in UZR/150 (which projects a player’s UZR into a number of runs above or below average per 150 games). Ramirez ranks 37th.
Ramirez has some experience at third base from the 2012 season in Miami. The Dodgers’ starting third baseman, Juan Uribe, is on the disabled list with a strained hamstring.
“I think he thinks, moving forward in his career, that he’s a third baseman,” Mattingly said.
So what’s the hold-up?
It’s nothing new. Ramirez has previously told his manager and GM that he doesn’t want to switch from shortstop to third base and back in the middle of a season. Over the last two years, the Dodgers have honored the request religiously.
The club believes Uribe will be back before the end of this season. Ramirez won’t switch positions, so third base belongs to Uribe once he returns. End of discussion.
In effect, Ramirez’s stubbornness will relegate arguably baseball’s best defensive shortstop to a utility role.
Maybe that’s worth the tradeoff. The Dodgers are 4-4, and have averaged 3.63 runs per game since Ramirez went on the disabled list. They were averaging 4.12 runs per game at the time.
Ramirez is still on track to be activated once he’s eligible on August 24. Mattingly said that Ramirez has already resumed swinging a bat at 90 percent intensity and throwing. He originally strained his right oblique muscle swinging a bat on August 8 in Milwaukee.
“He’ll continue to hit,” Mattingly said. “Going forward you’ll see him on the field pretty much like a normal guy. We thought it was going to be an 8- to 10-day thing — that’s what it’s looking like. Unless we have a setback in some way, Hanley will be ready to go.”