NASHVILLE — The Dodgers are prepared to start spring training with Hanley Ramirez as their starting shortstop.
While they have maintained contact with Zack Greinke's agent and checked in with the New York Mets on the remote possibility of trading for R.A. Dickey at the winter meetings, they haven't pursued any shortstops. And they don't plan to this off-season, General Manager Ned Colletti said.
Colletti and Manager Don Mattingly acknowledge that Ramirez has to play better defense than he did after he was acquired from the Miami Marlins in July. But they say they are confident he will.
"I kind of feel like Hanley can do anything," Mattingly said.
Ramirez had a reasonable alibi for his defensive shortcomings. The lifelong shortstop played third base for most of the season, a move he made to accommodate the Marlins' addition of Jose Reyes.
Ramirez is playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic, in large part to work on his defense. The Dodgers supported Ramirez's decision despite a recent scare when Ramirez jammed his right shoulder on a head-first slide at the plate. The injury relegated Ramirez to designated hitter, though he is expected to return to shortstop this week.
If Mattingly had his way, Ramirez would spend all of spring training with the Dodgers to continue his preparations at shortstop.
"We need him to put time in to be a better shortstop," Mattingly said.
But Ramirez wants to represent the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Reyes is expected to be that team's shortstop, meaning Ramirez probably would play third base at the tournament.
"It's hard to discourage a guy playing for his country," Mattingly said. "If I could, if he would listen, I would certainly talk to him because we would like him to play short."
Colletti doesn't have a problem with Ramirez playing in the tournament, even if he does so as a third baseman.
"I'm all for it," Colletti said.
How Ramirez handles shortstop will determine how Mattingly feels about his infield.
"If Hanley plays short and he can play the way he's capable of playing it, I'm not really concerned about third," Mattingly said.
Former minor league journeyman Luis Cruz, who came out of nowhere to hit .297 over 78 games, will get the first opportunity to be the starting third baseman.
"He's been a guy that kind of roamed around the minor leagues, team to team, and had a kind of bust-out year last year," Mattingly said. "But we've seen that a few times, right? You can't always count on that to continue. "
If Cruz falters, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Nick Punto could factor in at third base. If Cruz and Ramirez both falter, well, then the Dodgers have issues.
"The problem gets to be, if that's not working out at short, then I've got issues with that, and I've got to start flipping guys around," Mattingly said.
Still, the Dodgers don't think they have to sign another shortstop.
"We have some depth in that area right now in the organization," Colletti said.
Cruz can play there. So can Dee Gordon, though he remains a work in progress and could be traded this winter. Hairston and Punto could fill in at shortstop on a short-term basis.
Mark Ellis returns at second base.
The Dodgers offered a long-term contract to South Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin, which was promptly rejected and countered. "We're debating the next step," Colletti said. Ryu's agent, Scott Boras, wants Ryu to be paid like an established major league No. 3 starter. The Dodgers have exclusive negotiating rights with Ryu, but their window to sign him closes Sunday. ... Colletti isn't expecting the Dodgers to make any major moves before the end of the winter meetings Thursday. "It appears everybody we have some interest in is going to take a methodical path," he said.