Hanley Ramirez reported to Boston Red Sox camp Wednesday, six days before the deadline for position players, and he talked about the upcoming season, including his move to first base, with Rick Weber of ESPN.com.
When asked if his move to first base was temporary until he could take over as the designated hitter for David Ortiz, Ramirez slyly responded, "What if I win a Gold Glove? What is going to happen next year? It's too far [away]. I don't make those decisions. I have a boss."
Ramirez added that his main goal is to make sure the rest of the infield grows comfortable with him playing first base:
We're going to work a lot. I just want to make my infielders comfortable. Catch the ball and throw it. That's the main key right now. I told Bogey [shortstop Xander Bogaerts] right away, "Just throw the ball in this area and you'll be fine. Don't worry, I got you." Pedey [second baseman Dustin Pedroia], he don't make bad throws. "I'm always going to hit you in the chest."
While Ramirez knows playing first base will be a challenge, he seems excited to make the shift to a new position.
"I know that area in the infield," he told Weber. "It's different. Like I say, I'm really happy to be back in the infield. It's been a while that I haven't taken ground balls in a real game, and I'm really excited."
It's hard to imagine things could go much worse for Ramirez in his new position than they did a year ago. He struggled immensely in left field, hit just .249 with 19 homers, 53 RBI and six stolen bases and missed 57 games last year, suffering a shoulder injury that ended his season in early September.
The entire team struggled, however, finishing 78-84, the worst record in the American League East.
But there is reason for optimism, both for Ramirez and for the Red Sox. He acknowledged he's lost some weight coming into the season, altered his diet and added muscle, telling Weber, "I feel really good. Like I say, more athletic."
He's also pleased with the team's offseason, praising the improvements the team made to both the bullpen and the starting rotation with the addition of David Price.
The Red Sox certainly have the pieces to compete for a playoff spot again this year. They have a mix of talented veterans (Ramirez, Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Pablo Sandoval) and talented, intriguing youngsters (Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts). And with Craig Kimbrel locking down the ninth inning and Price and Clay Buchholz atop the rotation, the Red Sox are positioned to compete for a postseason spot.
But, of course, Ramirez's adjustment to first base and his health will play a major factor in any postseason run. As of now, the new first baseman is the picture of optimism.
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