Hanley gears up for bittersweet return to Miami
Ramirez has kind words, good feelings about Marlins but thankful to be with LA
LOS ANGELES -- Hanley Ramirez is excited.After the Los Angeles Dodgers knocked off the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night, remaining 1 1/2 games back of National League West-leading San Francisco, Ramirez was getting ready to show off his new-found friends in Dodger Blue to his family and old friends in Miami. The Dodgers open a three-game series against the Marlins on Friday night at Marlins Park. It will be Ramirez's first trip back since the Marlins sent him to the Dodgers in a July 25 trade, ending a 6 1/2-year run with the South Florida franchise. It was a bittersweet deal for Ramirez. "I am happy because they dealt me to a contender," he said. "There is a lot of talent here, and everybody is working together." Miami was the franchise that gave Ramirez a chance to establish himself in the big leagues, and while the team was rarely a contender during his time there, he felt he developed a strong relationship with owner Jeffrey Loria, a friendship with his teammates and a strong bond with the fans. The Dodgers, however, afford Ramirez the long-awaited chance to be in a playoff race, and added him because they believe he will be a critical piece for not only their middle infield, but also the middle of their lineup. "It was hard to leave there because I had been there so long, but I want to win, we all want to win, and I appreciate that Miami gave me the opportunity to come to Los Angeles," he said. "The Marlins will always be part of me. They gave me the chance to play in the big leagues, and my family will always live there. But this is a business, and decisions have to be made. "This is a new beginning for me and a new beginning for them." This isn't what the Marlins had in mind at the beginning of the season. Moving into their new ballpark, management went all-out to make an impact on the South Florida sports fan. They brought in Ozzie Guillen to be the manager and splurged to sign free-agent starter Mark Buehrle, closer Heath Bell and shortstop Jose Reyes, which prompted the move of Ramirez to third base. They also gambled on Cubs malcontent Carlos Zambrano, and in late June, Miami swung a deal to acquire the run-producing bat of Carlos Lee from Houston. Good idea. Bad execution. A team that was 31-27 on June 9 had stumbled to a 45-53 record by the time Ramirez was dealt on July 25. This is everything the Dodgers could have wanted. Given the emotional lift of new ownership earlier in the season, they then saw the new group step up to add reinforcements to help in a race with San Francisco and Arizona. They have added five new players to the 25-man roster in the past two weeks, including outfielder Shane Victorino, starting pitcher Joe Blanton, left-handed reliever Randy Choate, right-handed reliever Brandon League, and Ramirez, who has moved back to his natural position of shortstop. "It was important to show the fans we are committed to winning," said Dodgers president Stan Kasten, "but more importantly, it was important to let the players know we are going to do what we can do to help them win." Consider the message delivered. "More than anything, it showed our ownership's commitment," said left-hander Clayton Kershaw. "We had holes. They were filled. Ownership has put a team on the field capable of winning. Now it is on us to win." Blanton adds depth to the rotation. Choate and League provide balance to the bullpen. Victorino is the needed leadoff hitter and a perfect third in the outfield with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. And then there is Ramirez. "Matt and Andre are the guys, but adding Shane and Hanley creates that lineup depth that makes it a challenge for the other pitcher," said Kershaw. "Hanley is always a challenge. He has so much talent, so many tools. He is a welcomed addition." On Friday night the baseball world will find out if his return to Miami is welcomed. "It is something he is going to have to deal with," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "It's part of the game. I don't know what to expect fan-wise. They are not drawing real well." Ramirez expects a warm welcome. "There are good people in Miami, the ownership, the players, the fans," he said. But this year, they are disappointed, which is why Ramirez is with the Dodgers. "Everybody gave everything they had but it didn't work," said Ramirez. "So changes were made." No complaints from Ramirez.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.