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Mattingly leaning toward placing Cruz at shortstop

Mattingly leaning toward placing Cruz at shortstop

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly hasn't backed away from his initial thought that Luis Cruz will replace the injured Hanley Ramirez at shortstop over Dee Gordon.

Without making a final decision, Mattingly again hinted that he's comfortable with Cruz moving from third, while preferring to keep in place the club's plan of sending Gordon back to the Minor Leagues for more seasoning after a tough 2012 season in which he was rushed to the Major Leagues, then injured.

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"You come into spring with a plan for what's best for a guy and something happens, are you going to abort the plan?" Mattingly asked. "You put things in motion for a reason, and all of a sudden, in a 24-hour window you make a decision. That's probably not the best way to make a decision. If you've got a plan, you make it for a reason. To abort that, you're chasing your tail."

That said, Mattingly also complimented Gordon for "showing steady improvement" this spring with his solid on-base percentage (.405) and better at-bats (eight walks in 38 plate appearances).

Gordon downplayed whatever competition that might exist over the final 10 days before the season starts.

"I don't really read all that," he said. "I'd rather be under the radar until it's my time. [Comments have] nothing to do with me. [Mattingly's] the manager, whatever he tells me to do, I do. I'm just playing. I only play one position. It's not like you can move me somewhere else."

Cruz was brought up last year because shortstop was his natural position throughout a decade-long Minor League career and in Mexican Winter ball.

"I feel comfortable anywhere," said Cruz. "Shortstop is easy for me to play. A ball hit in the gap, I know exactly where to go. Third base I still have to think sometimes. I think something that will help me play short is that I lost weight, so it's easier for me to adjust back. I was 220 last year, I'm 213 now. I'm not saying I'm quicker. I'll never be quick. But my body feels better."

If and when Cruz moves to shortstop, Mattingly said he would use a rotation of Juan Uribe, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston at third base.

The loss of Ramirez's bat from the No. 5 hole is a bigger issue than the loss of his defense. Most scouts consider him too big and lacking the first-step quickness to play short, which the Marlins agreed with by moving him to third base and acquiring Jose Reyes to play short.

The Dodgers played Ramirez at short, but told him during the offseason that he would need to improve his range and angles to stay there. He pleased management by his work ethic and attitude early in camp, but he left nearly two weeks ago for the World Baseball Classic.

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

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