A day before pitchers and catchers were set to report to Spring Training, Miami Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez arrived at the team's complex in Jupiter to take grounders at his new position and let everyone know exactly how he feels about his new role with the team.
Dismissing offseason rumors that he had demanded a trade after the team acquired All-Star SS Jose Reyes, prompting his own move to third, Ramirez told reporters "I'm happy to be here."
For the third spring in a row, Ramirez is promising to turn over a new leaf and lead by example in the Marlins clubhouse. The early signs are promising, though Marlins fans can say they have seen this before
After taking batting practice, Ramirez took to the back field of the Marlins' complex to field grounders at the hot corner, his new home in the Marlins infield. As Ramirez told it, the rumors of his exit this winter were laughable fabrications.
"I knew I didn't say that," he said. "Me and my agent, we were laughing about everything that was out. I enjoyed my time with my kids."
They were the only ones laughing in South Florida. But Ramirez was adamant that he never refused a position change following the Reyes deal.
"I never said I'm not going to do it," he asserted. "I'm just happy to be here with the Marlins, here with my teammates. Everybody is happy."
Much in the same way he did before the 2011 season, Ramirez vowed to carry the Marlins to a playoff berth. While training with former teammate Miguel Cabrera over the winter, Ramirez was told by Cabrera that he needs to be an MVP this season. "What that means to be MVP, you've got to take your team to the playoffs," Ramirez said.
He said the injuries which hampered him last season, when he posted a career low .243, are over. "I know what kind of player I'm going to be this year, because my body feels 100 percent."
The Marlins are treating Ramirez' healed shoulder cautiously for now. President of baseball operations Larry Beinfest has instructed Ramirez not to try any diving stops during Spring Training. "There is no reason for him to dive right now," he said.
The important thing is that Ramirez is happy, but you'll excuse Marlins fans for saying they've heard this story before. Only a full season of a content Ramirez will prove that he has finally matured into the leader Marlins brass have long hoped he could be. That may still not happen, but at least he is off to the right start.