GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Management's anxiety level has been dialed back with the impressive play of Hanley Ramirez, who is scheduled to leave camp on Sunday for the World Baseball Classic.
Ramirez has worked hard to better himself defensively at shortstop and, almost overlooked, has resembled the smart and gifted hitter manager Don Mattingly envisioned him to be. On Friday, Ramirez had a pair of hits, two stolen bases (including one of home) and an RBI against the Padres.
"I feel better all the way around," Mattingly said. "I know how good the guy is. To me, hitting .250, that's not good enough for Hanley Ramirez. If a guy tops out at .260 and is hitting .250, OK, but for Hanley, he's just better than that.
"He had  homers and 92 RBIs last year, and we're asking for more. If he takes his hits, he'll drive in runs and hit more home runs."
Ramirez averaged a combined .257 with the Marlins and Dodgers last season, a long way from the .342 he hit to win the National League batting title in 2009.
"All I'm working on is hitting the ball up the middle," said Ramirez. "That's what I think about whenever there are runners in scoring position. I do that, and I drive in runs. I love to drive in runs."
Ramirez and reliever Ronald Belisario leave on Sunday to join the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, respectively, for Classic games in Puerto Rico. The Dodgers' other Classic participants -- Adrian Gonzalez and Luis Cruz (Team Mexico) and Nick Punto (Team Italy) -- depart on Monday to join their clubs in Arizona.
Greinke hit hard but happy with pitch quality
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Zack Greinke was hit hard by the Padres on Friday, allowing two runs in three innings on five hits, four of them for extra bases.
But Greinke, whose command is well documented, said it was just a case of aggressive hitters swinging at strikes early in the count.
"They were swinging at a lot of first-pitch fastballs, and my thought process is to adjust or keep working on what I've been doing in Spring Training," said Greinke. "Some guys trying to make the team know the pitchers are working on fastballs and don't take the pitches."
Greinke was happy with the quality of his pitches and continues working to improve when it comes to throwing changeups to right-handed hitters.
"You never want to give up a bunch of hits, but those were all fastballs for strikes," he said. "They should be hit. I don't think they hit any pitch that shouldn't be hit. If they were crushing pitches they shouldn't be hitting, I might be a little more worried."
Non-roster reliever Kevin Gregg pitched another scoreless inning, but Stephen Fife was given a blown save for allowing two runs in three innings, and top prospect Zack Lee took the loss after allowing a pair of ninth-inning runs on three hits and a balk, though he struck out two.
Barden making most of opportunity in camp
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Who is Brian Barden, and why is he hitting .636?
Barden is a 31-year-old journeyman infielder entering his 12th professional year, having played in 119 Major League games. He's a non-roster invitee trying to make an impression.
"My hits are just falling in," Barden said.
As long a shot as Barden is today, he's not much different than, say, Luis Cruz was a year ago. So you never know.
"That's why we [non-roster invitees] signed with this team, putting ourselves in position to get an opportunity like [Cruz] did," said Barden, a sixth-round pick out of Oregon State University by the D-backs in 2002.
Barden made his Major League debut with Arizona and was later claimed off waivers by St. Louis, where he had a handful of callups before coming off the roster.
He hooked on with the Marlins in 2010 for one callup, and played at Triple-A in the Rangers system in 2011 before opting out at midseason to play in Japan. But his elbow went bad, and in 2012, while buried in the Japanese Minor Leagues, he came home to have surgery to remove bone chips.
The year before Cruz joined the Dodgers, he played in Mexico.
"I learned a lot about myself as a player and person in Japan," said Barden, who tried to satisfy his club by hitting for power. "It just wasn't my game."
In truth, he's considered the type of player who can fill out Triple-A Albuquerque's roster. Then again, so was Cruz a year ago, and now he's the Dodgers' starting third baseman.
Lorenzo Bundy, Albuquerque's manager, was with Barden for three years in the D-backs system and praises his scrappy style, so Barden has that going for him.
Married and the father of two, Barden will accept whatever role, at whatever level, the Dodgers have for him.
"I'm just happy to have a job," he said.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.