Los Angeles Dodgers workout at Camelback Ranch-Glendale in Phoenix, Arizona Wednesday, February 12, 2014. Photo by Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2014

Hanley Ramirez's Smile Shines Bright This Spring

Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe were already joking around in the locker room at Camelback Ranch on Wednesday, a day earlier than both were scheduled to report for Spring Training. Hanley was photographed by Dodgers photographer Jon SooHoo smiling while working out with his teammates on a sunny and beautiful day in Arizona. Hanley’s smile is one of those which just beams. Watching Hanley play for the Dodgers the last season and a half makes me wonder what it was like ever seeing a so-called lazy and unhappy Hanley which was supposedly souring the clubhouse in Miami before he was traded.

Hanley says his fractured rib has healed and his back feels much better due to an offseason therapy regimen.

“I think I’m stronger and I’ve got to stay on top of it, and by exercising I’ll be fine,” Hanley said. “I feel the difference right away. Now, it’s perfect.”

Hanley is happy in Los Angeles, and he has repeatedly said that he wants to remain a Dodger for a long time.

“I want to be a Dodger for life.”

Contract negotiations with the infielder may be ongoing which Hanley confirmed to an interviewer in his home country of the Dominican Republic over the winter break. With Clayton Kershaw‘s contract negotiation in the books, the Dodgers’ arbitration eligible players’ contracts all settled, it seems that a Hanley contract extension could be the next to be finalized.

The Dodgers may be a little wary since Hanley was able to only play in 86 regular season games for the Dodgers after missing the first two months of the season with a torn thumb ligament sustained during the World Baseball Classic, a hamstring strain, and reoccurrence of his chronic back issues over the course of 2013. A fractured rib handed to him by Joe Kelly in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLCS gave the Cardinals the decided advantage in the series after Hanley was unable to perform at the same amazing level he did during the NLDS for the Dodgers.

The broken rib was no fault of Hanley and completely unrelated to any past injury  of his, and it clearly showed how important the 30-year old former batting champion is to the team’s success. Without Hanley in the lineup, the Dodgers fell to the Red Birds in the NLCS. There is no question that if Hanley had been healthy in the series, the outcome probably would have been a lot different.

Thankfully there is no World Baseball Classic this year, so Hanley will have all of Spring Training to prepare for Opening Day in Australia. We saw Hanley tear up the baseball at a historic pace during his 86 games last season when he hit .345/.402/.638 with 20 homeruns, and 57 RBIs. I can’t wait to watch Hanley play a whole season for the Dodgers with a hopefully clean bill of health. Even though he won’t be able to play in every game, his presence in the lineup transforms the batting order into something truly special.

Hanley has been having a relaxing and fun offseason which he shared pictures of via his Instagram account. Fishing, spending time in the Dominican Republic, and spending time with his family were some of his winter activities. Isn’t that the ideal offseason we want our star player to have? A healthy, happy, focused Hanley is key for the Dodgers’ World Championship aspirations for 2014.

His smile may be stunning, but his swing is even more beautiful. Hanley Ramirez deserves his contract extension and to secure his spot on the team for the remainder of his career. I can’t help but respect a player who wants to be a lifelong Dodger, and in turn I want Hanley to wear Blue and keep on homerin’ for years to come.

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