How Long Will Hanley Ramirez Remain At Shortstop?

Hanley Ramirez, preparing for Wednesday's game way back in spring training, against Carlos Beltran and the Cardinals.

What we do know about new Dodger acquisition Hanley Ramirez is that he is expected to arrive in St. Louis between two and three hours before game time Wednesday night. He will likely be in the starting lineup, and be playing shortstop. But just how long will Ramirez remain at shortstop?

It's a question the Dodgers don't need to answer just yet, but the one thing they like is that they have options.

Ramirez played shortstop for his entire career in Florida until moving to third base this season to accommodate new Marlin Jose Reyes, who signed as a free agent. Ramirez will return to shortstop for the Dodgers while Dee Gordon is on the disabled list after Gordon tore a ligament in his thumb.

"For right now it's the best spot for us. If he's playing shortstop everyone else can mix and match at third base a little bit, and we can do some things with the guys that we have," manager Don Mattingly said on Wednesday. "As of right now with the guys that he have, Dee Gordon is not available. In the scenario that we're in right now it looks best with Hanley playing short for me."

But when Gordon returns, some time in mid August, will Ramirez move to third base? With six days still remaining until the trade deadline, and general manager Ned Colletti saying the Dodgers are still in the market for another position player as well as a starting pitcher, it's a question the Dodgers don't need to concern themselves with just yet.

But let's assume for a moment that the Dodgers don't acquire a third baseman. The choice then when Gordon returns becomes between Jerry Hairston Jr. and Juan Uribe splitting time at third base with Ramirez at shortstop, or Ramirez at third base with Gordon at shortstop.

There are costs to consider with both options, as Ramirez was rated well below average by Ultimate Zone Rating and Total Zone Rating in three or four of his six full years at shortstop, with a peak of barely average to just below average defensively. Gordon, meanwhile, has been arguably the worst regular in baseball this year, hitting .229/.280/.282 with below average defense himself, including 17 errors.

Mattingly didn't want to speculate a month ahead of time, but did stop short of simply handing the shortstop job back to Gordon unconditionally.

"I don't think you're ever really, really set. It's always a competitive world we're in," Mattingly said. "But with the dynamic of the players we have, that's why it's so important that Hanley is on board and willing to do whatever it takes for the team to win, and that's what he's expressed."

Ramirez will bat in the middle of the order for the Dodgers. Mattingly said Matt Kemp will remain batting third, and that it is likely that Ramirez and Andre Ethier will alternate between fourth and fifth depending on matchups.

The trade of Nathan Eovaldi opens up a rotation spot for Friday in San Francisco, one that won't go to Ryan Dempster, who started for the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh. Stephen Fife, currently in Triple A, is in line to pitch on regular rest, and Double A pitcher Allen Webster, mentioned by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com as a possibility yet not on the 40-man roster, is another possibility.

But Mattingly said Friday's starter is still something that's being discussed internally, and hasn't yet been decided. "It's all happening so fast," he said.

Of the trade itself, in which the Dodgers also acquired left-handed reliever Randy Choate and absorbed over $37 million remaining in Ramirez's contract, Colletti praised the new ownership group, who remain committed to improving the roster.

"We're not going be reckless, or do things just to do things," Colletti said. "If it makes sense from a player standpoint, it comes down to a strictly baseball deal, we have the right to do whatever we need to do, and that's a tremendous position to be in."

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