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Ramirez to be starting shortstop


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JUPITER, Fla. -- As a rising prospect, Hanley Ramirez was called up from Double-A Portland by the Red Sox last September and enjoyed a two-week stint in the big leagues.

The 22-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic is now on the verge of becoming a full-time player with the Marlins.


Based on how he's performed this spring, Ramirez has locked down the starting shortstop spot on a youthful squad.


Ramirez had been competing with Robert Andino, who also has enjoyed a solid spring. But on Sunday, the Marlins optioned Andino to Triple-A Albuquerque, securing a starting spot for Ramirez.


In other roster moves, first baseman Jason Stokes and reliever Travis Bowyer also were optioned to Albuquerque. And catcher Ryan Jorgensen and outfielder Mark Little were reassigned to Minor League camp.


Acquired from the Red Sox as part of the Josh Beckett/Mike Lowell trade, Ramirez had long been regarded as a premier prospect. Now he's showing signs of being a future star.


"Those are high expectations," manager Joe Girardi said. "But I think he expects to be a very good player for a long, long time. He's very talented. There are things he can do. He works hard. He has a great attitude. We expect big things from him."


The likely leadoff hitter, Ramirez is having arguably the best spring of any Marlin. He opened Sunday's game against the Cardinals with a first-inning double off Mark Mulder.


After going 1-for-4 in the Marlins' 9-1 win on Sunday, Ramirez is batting .339 (20-for-59) in Grapefruit League play.


But until he sees his name in the starting lineup on Opening Day, April 3 at Houston, Ramirez will feel as though he is competing for a job.


"For the first time, I've got that in my mind," Ramirez said of being the Opening Day starter. "I'm here for one reason: I want to play in the big leagues. I want to play every day. I feel confident at home plate and playing defense, too.


"It's one of my dreams. I'd be very happy. I want to help the team."


The advice Ramirez has received from a number of his big-league friends is to keep pushing himself.


"'You've got to work,' that's what everybody told me," he said. "'You've got to work hard every day.'"


In Ramirez and Andino, the Marlins have two gifted shortstops in their system.


Andino hit .325 (13-for-40) in Grapefruit League play, and on Saturday he drove in three runs with a home run and a double in a comeback win over the Orioles.


Girardi said it was a tough decision to option Andino, who likely will also play some second base at Albuquerque.


"Robert did a lot of great things," Girardi said. "It was really hard sending him down today. I told him, 'It's a small bump in the road.' I believe Robert is a big-league ballplayer. He is going to be a big leaguer. Right now we're going to start with Hanley. We told Robert to be prepared.


"We would never hesitate to call Robert up. He's a very good player. There are injuries. There are things that will come up."


In addition to shortstop, Sunday's roster moves helped narrow down a number of other position battles.


Bowyer entered Spring Training as a candidate for the closer role. A hard-thrower obtained in the trade that sent Luis Castillo to the Twins, Bowyer has been working on his slider and off-speed pitches.


In eight spring games, Bowyer was 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA. He allowed six runs in 7 1/3 innings and walked seven while striking out four.


One reliever still in the mix is hard-throwing Venezuelan Carlos Martinez. A standout at Class A Jupiter last year, where he notched 22 saves, Martinez is in line to make the big leap to the big leagues.


"He's done nothing but impress us," Girardi said. "Every time out, he's gotten nothing but outs. He's down in the zone. His innings have been as easy as anyone's here."




Seems like Joe Girardi really likes Carlos Martinez.

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