MESA, Ariz. -- Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has had the same answer all spring to questions about Hanley Ramirez's suitability to be the team's everyday shortstop.
"If he'll go to work, he'll be fine," Mattingly said more than once. "He's got to work."
All indications are Ramirez has been going to work. He has been hitting the field early most mornings since reporting to Camelback Ranch. Coach Tim Wallach has been putting him through an extra 20- to 25-minute workout before the team's daily routine starts at 9 a.m.
"Wally's totally happy with his effort and what he's looking like," Mattingly said. "We film it and look at it pretty much every day. We're real happy with where he's going.
"Hanley's getting after it. We're happy with that to this point. We have to continue that. We've got time to keep gaining ground."
Mattingly and Wallach are looking for whether Ramirez is "speeding up" to meet the different demands of shortstop after spending the first half of last season at third base for the Marlins.
"I know as a third baseman you've got a little more time than you do at short," said Wallach who won three Gold Gloves during his 16-year major-league career at third base. "You're going to speed it up with your feet. His hands are good. His arm is plenty good. It's just speeding his feet up because that'll speed everything else up. And he's done that.
"It's kind of an inner clock that you have when you get used to a position. At third base, you know who that runner is. Your clock tells you, 'I've got to get rid of it.' When you go to shortstop, it's a quicker clock. You've got a lot more to do. You get double-play opportunities where you've got to speed things up. You've gotta get it there. You've gotta get rid of it. That's all the stuff he's been working on and he's looking really good doing it. He's done it with energy which is, at 8:30 in the morning, not always easy to do. But he's done it."
Ramirez's footwork wasn't the best on a ground ball to his right by Alfonso Soriano in the first inning of Wednesday's 11-7 victory over the Cubs. He got to the ball but made a poor feed to second base, getting only one out on what Mattingly acknowledged was "turnable" for a double play. It would have helped Dodgers starter Aaron Harang, who wound up giving up four runs in the first inning.
Ramirez agreed footwork is the most important thing he has tried to work on this spring as well as re-acquainting himself with the unique "rhythm" of shortstop compared to third base. It's a lot like going back to the early days of his pro career, Ramirez said, with Wallach's emphasis on fundamentals.
"Definitely, man -- but it's good," Ramirez said. "We've got all spring to work."
Ramirez will leave the Dodgers' camp in a few days to start working with the Dominican team in preparation for the World Baseball Classic. Ramirez is not likely to see any game action at shortstop for the Dominican team which has Jose Reyes and Erick Aybar on the roster. Ramirez could play at third base until Adrian Beltre returns from a calf injury or he could DH like he did during winter ball.
Wallach said he has "already touched base" with Angels infield coach Alfredo Griffin who will be on the Dominican staff during the WBC. The two talked about the work Ramirez has been doing in camp with the Dodgers and the team's hopes that he continues those drills during his workouts for the WBC.
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