You can count on one hand Scratch that: You don’t need hands to count the number of times Hanley Ramirez has played the outfield at the major league level. The 31-year-old has zero experience.
Still, the Red Sox expect Ramirez — primarily a shortstop throughout his career — to patrol the shadows of the Green Monster in 2015. The three-time All-Star expressed a willingness to change positions before signing with Boston this offseason, and he’s facing the challenge head-on in an effort to return the Red Sox to prominence.
“I think that from the bottom of my heart, because I want to win,” Ramirez said Saturday at the Red Sox’s Baseball Winter Weekend event at Foxwoods Resort Casino when asked if he views the outfield as a personal test. “That’s the bigger challenge — to have that trophy at the end of the year in our hands. That’s the bigger one.
“The new adjustment to the position, I’ve just got to work. And I think everything is going to be fine. Just work and try to get better every day.”
Ramirez’s outfield preparation already is underway. He’s been working out in the Dominican Republic, focusing on tracking balls struck over his head and moving side to side. The concept of hitting a cutoff man also is new to Ramirez, who plans to work extensively with Red Sox outfield instructor Arnie Beyeler upon arriving at spring training.
“He’s a great guy. He likes to work,” Ramirez said Saturday. “He already spoke to me this morning. He came over and asked me, ‘How are you feeling?’ (and) what I’ve been working on. He told me if you don’t feel comfortable on one play or whatever, you just tell me and I can help you. He’s got some ideas for me so he can make my job easier.”
While Ramirez’s transition to left field is important, Boston acquired the former batting champion for his offensive prowess. Red Sox manager John Farrell said he expects Ramirez to hit cleanup, sandwiched between David Ortiz and the newly acquired Pablo Sandoval.
“I just want four at-bats. Anywhere,” Ramirez said of his spot in the lineup. “Like I said, we’re here and pretty much everybody on our team, not pretty much everybody, but most of the team’s got rings. We just want to get as many as we can for the city.
“Our fans, they didn’t have a chance to see me play in the majors. Now that I came back to Boston, it’s going to be an honor for me.”
Sandoval was long considered a potential target before signing a five-year deal with Boston in November, but the Ramirez move surprised many, including Farrell. The Red Sox, who were approached by Ramirez at the beginning of the offseason, simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity, even if it required a major defensive shift.
“I think the most important thing is we have a very good athlete, a proven middle-of-the-order bat and, most importantly, an attitude of wanting to do this,” Farrell said. “He’s going to make a huge impact for us.”
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@HanleyRamirez