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Samson: Hanley is our starting shortstop

Samson: Hanley is our starting shortstop

Samson: Hanley is our starting shortstop
MIAMI -- Hanley Ramirez has been one of the top shortstops in the big leagues for six years, and the Marlins have no intention of changing his status.

On Thursday, Marlins president David Samson put to rest speculation that the team is weighing whether to move Ramirez to another position.

"There has been no conversations with that," Samson said. "I suppose if we sign a free-agent first baseman who would only sign with us if he could play shortstop, I guess that is the conversation we'd have with all of our players.

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"But Hanley is our starting shortstop."

Questions about where Ramirez may play started last week when manager Ozzie Guillen opened the door for a possible switch.

During the World Series, Guillen has been an analyst for ESPN. Prior to the start of the Series, the Marlins' new manager was asked on a conference call if Ramirez was automatically locked in to play shortstop.

"I just want him on the field, no matter where," Guillen said last week. "If he has to be a shortstop, it's shortstop. If he has to be somewhere else, I just want this kid to be on the field every day. That's what I'm looking for. The conversation was great, but you know me. It's up to the Marlins, what they have in mind, what they want to do. The longer this kid's on the field there and giving me at-bats every day, that's what I need."

Foremost, the Marlins want Ramirez, who missed the final two months of the season, healthy.

Ramirez, 27, is recovering from left shoulder surgery. Currently, he is in the process of doing range-of-motion activities, and the team is hopeful that he will be ready for the 2012 opener.

"More importantly, we need him on the field," Samson said. "That's what he's focused on this offseason, getting better. His range of motion is getting better."

A .306 career hitter, Ramirez is coming off his roughest season, hitting .242 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 92 games.

"He's improving, and we expect him to be in the lineup on Opening Day," Samson said.

The Marlins are coming off a 72-90 season, and the team plans on being active in the offseason to make dramatic improvements.

They are moving into their new ballpark in 2012, and the expectations for the franchise are high. Payroll also is going up from the $58 million spent in 2011.

The Marlins aren't saying what their payroll will be in 2012, but it is believed to be in the $85 million range.

"We're going to be very active," Samson said. "Whether we get deals done depends on the market. We're going to be very aggressive, but we're not going to be foolish. That's the key. When you raise your payroll, you've got to do it smartly, because if you don't, you are losing 90 games at a higher payroll.

"Our intention is to win 90 games and make the playoffs at a higher payroll. But to do it, we have to be smart and work together as an organization. We think we've got the brains. Now, we've got the revenue. And now we just need the performance."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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