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Don Mattingly confident Hanley Ramirez will start hitting again

Ramirez has played in 50 of 54 games this season, including 48 starts.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- After what was really an historic, and abbreviated, season in 2013, there was excitement building heading into 2014 for Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez. If Ramirez is healthy enough to play 150 games the Dodgers should be rolling, it was reasonably safe to assume before the season.

Well, through 54 games, exactly one-third of the season, Ramirez is on pace to play those 150 games, but he, like the Dodgers, are just sort of plodding along so far this season.

Ramirez is hitting .245/.326/.438 with seven home runs and 16 doubles, the latter tied for fifth in the majors. He has a 113 OPS+ and 117 wRC+, none of which can be classified as bad, but just like the Dodgers on pace to win 87 games, it's below expectations.

"He's not clicking the ball they way he did last year," manager Don Mattingly said on Wednesday. "Hanley is a guy that's going to hit. We're confident he's going to hit. He's just not quite squaring the ball up right now."

In 2013, Ramirez was clicking to the tune of .345/.402/.638 with 20 home runs and 25 doubles in 86 games, limited by injuries to his thumb, hamstring, back and, in the playoffs, his ribs. Ramirez is on pace for 21 home runs in a full season this year, just one more he had in his abbreviated masterpiece last year.

Ramirez has been mostly injury free this year, outside of a few minor things. He got hit by a pitch on the hand in San Francisco on April 16 and missed one game. He sat out three games with tightness in his lower left leg before returning on Tuesday. He also suffered a bruised right thumb on April 26 that caused him to leave the game and miss one start.

Since that thumb injury, Ramirez is hitting .220/.297/.390 with four home runs and five doubles in 24 games. He is 1-for-8 in the two games since returning from the lower leg injury.

Mattingly after Wednesday's game said he hadn't yet seen video but sounded confident his shortstop would hit, eventually.

"Obviously he hadn't played in a few days, so he may be a tick rusty, but I'm not quite sure. We feel like Hanley is a guy who is going to hit," Mattingly said. "As much as anything he's trying really hard. It just hasn't been the same. It seems like he's hitting the ball in the air, instead of on a line to the gap."

The line drive rate for Ramirez has decreased from 22 percent in 2013 to 18.5 percent this year.

Ramirez hasn't yet faced Gerrit Cole, the former Orange Lutheran High product and UCLA Bruin drafted No. 1 overall by the Pirates in 2011. Cole made his second big league start against the Dodgers, allowing three runs in 5⅔ innings in Pittsburgh last June 16.

Thursday will mark Cole's first major league start in Los Angeles.

Dan Haren, who went to Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, looks to continue his streak of lasting at least six innings, which he has done in his last seven starts. Haren has lasted six or more in nine of 10 starts this season, and pitched 5⅔ innings in the other game. 

Haren leads the Dodgers staff averaging 6.27 innings per start. Can he keep up the streak of seven or more innings by Dodgers starters, currently at four games and counting?

If Haren does last seven or more innings, it will be the first time Dodgers starters went at least seven innings in five straight games since May 14-20, 2003 (Kevin Brown, Darren Dreifort, Odalis Perez, Hideo Nomo, and Brown again).

Game info

Time: 7:10 p.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA