After playing for five teams in his 14-year career, Ramon Hernandez experienced a first on Mar. 29 when he was designated for assignment by the Rockies. Eight days later, Hernandez was traded from a team projected at the bottom of the division to a playoff contender in the Dodgers.
"It was my first time ever (getting designated for assignment), and I didn't know what was going to happen or how it's going to work out," Hernandez said. "Hopefully with a new year and a new team, it's a fresh start."
Hernandez was traded for pitcher Aaron Harang, his friend and former teammate in both Oakland (2002-2003) and Cincinnati (2009-2010).
"He's a great dude, a great guy," Hernandez said. "Sometimes change is good."
Change for Hernandez means leaving Colorado, where he signed a two-year, $6.4 million contract prior to the 2012 season to play regularly, only to miss two months with a hand injury then lose his job to Wilin Rosario. Hernandez hit just .217/.247/.353 with five home runs in 52 games with the Rockies in 2012.
He said he was excited to catch the Dodgers' pitchers.
"This is one of the best pitching staffs in the major leagues. You have Kershaw, Greinke, Beckett. You're talking about number ones and number twos," Hernandez said. "They have so many good pitchers I forgot to name a few."
One pitcher Hernandez was especially interested in was Matt Guerrier, current wearer of uniform number 55. Hernandez has worn 55 in all five of his MLB stops, and it has been the only number he wore outside of a brief stint at number 18 with the Orioles in 2008. Hernandez is wearing number 33 on Sunday, though he and Guerrier will swap numbers later in the week.
Hernandez's role with the Dodgers will be to backup A.J. Ellis, and start once or twice a week.
"A.J. is the leader of that staff. He's the guy who really studies and the pitchers trust him. But I think you're always trying to get better, so Ramon brings things to the table for us," said manager Don Mattingly. "We still feel like (Ramon) has got something left, just maybe not necessarily on an everyday basis."
Hernandez came into the Dodgers clubhouse with a smile on Sunday, the smile of a man happy to be on a winner and a soon-to-be 37-year-old content with his role.
"I'm here just to give Ellis rest. I will try to mentor him, try to help him and help the pitchers the best I can. I'll do whatever I can to help the team win," Hernandez said. "It's a great organization and a great city, and there's no better place to be than here."