Big bat Hanley returns to leadoff spot

Hanley returns to leadoff spot

MIAMI -- From third to first. It's a transition Hanley Ramirez is quite familiar with, and on Thursday the switch was made once again.

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez has shifted his top offensive weapon to the top of the batting order.

Since his rookie season in 2006, Ramirez primarily has led off. But on May 2, the versatile 24-year-old was dropped to third in the order to take advantage of his power potential.

At the time of the move, Ramirez had gone 1-for-15 in this homestand, with 10 strikeouts.

"We'll see if it will be a jump start," Gonzalez said. "Ultimately, we want to get him going. He wants to win ballgames, like all of us."

Ramirez has been comfortable batting first. In 28 games and 115 at-bats from that spot, he had a .322 average with eight homers and 19 RBIs, to go along with nine stolen bases.

Ramirez had appeared in 16 games in the third stop, and in 56 at-bats, he was hitting .268 with one homer and four RBIs.

Ramirez was given the night off on Wednesday. It's been a hectic couple of weeks for the shortstop, who last Saturday officially signed his six-year, $70-million contract extension.

On Thursday, Ramirez was out early for batting practice.

"We gave him a day off, trying to clear his head a little bit," hitting coach Jim Presley said. "That's happened with every player. You get tired physically. You get tired mentally. We looked at some video. We looked back in April. We talked about keeping his hands higher.

"It happens to the best of them. We saw it happen to [Miguel] Cabrera when he was here. Nobody is immune from it. With him, you don't have to worry about him."

Ramirez will likely be kept in the top spot for at least a few weeks, because Gonzalez doesn't like to shift players around arbitrarily.

The primary option to hit third, for now, is Jorge Cantu.

"We'll leave him there a little bit," Gonzalez said.

Luis Gonzalez also is a choice. But with Jeremy Hermida batting second and Mike Jacobs hitting cleanup, Gonzalez would create a situation where three straight left-handed hitters batted in a row.

Cantu splits up Hermida and Jacobs.

For now, Dan Uggla is not being considered to hit third, mainly because he's been so hot from the fifth and sixth spots.

What does Ramirez hitting leadoff mean for the eventual arrival of Jacque Jones?

Jones, who signed a Minor League deal on Monday, is getting into playing shape in extended spring games in Jupiter, Fla. Jones will join the team either this weekend or next week at the New York Mets.

Jones, who has experience leading off, now projects to hit at the bottom of the order.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.