Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski spoke at length Friday about his team’s recently initiated effort to shift left fielder Hanley Ramirez to first base.
Ramirez, a career infielder before this season, began practicing the new position earlier this week in Chicago. He could see game action at first over the season’s final month, but Dombrowski said he does not want to rush the transition.
“We’re going to play it by ear, because I think it’s more important that he feels comfortable playing first base,” Dombrowski told reporters before Friday’s matchup with the New York Mets, as aired on “Red Sox First Pitch.” “I’ve seen, again, some guys that are good athletes, good players, that have a hard time with the transition. I’ve seen other guys that do it very fluidly. But it’s important, because you can get hurt over there with runners coming down if your footwork’s not right.
“… I’m not really worried about catching ground balls, because he’ll be able to catch ground balls over there eventually. He’s been an infielder. His arm strength is good enough to play over there. It’s more a matter of the footwork aspect of it, and that takes time.”
Ramirez’s dismal defensive performance in left surely has something to do with the switch, but other factors are at play, as well. Chief among those is the fact that the Red Sox’s ability to field an outfield of Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo — three of the teams most promising up-and-comers.
Boston also lacks a surefire replacement for traded first baseman Mike Napoli, although Travis Shaw has done an excellent job of filling that role since the trade deadline.
“We’re really looking toward 2016,” Dombrowski explained. “So to me, it seems logical — and I had watched some games on television already at that point — there’s three good, young outfielders. You’d like them all to play. They’re outstanding defensive outfielders. Well of course, the only way you can do it is if you move Hanley out of there. And then where does he play? Well really, the logical thing is, there’s one spot next year that’s not spoken (for), and that’s really first base. Now, people can say, ‘Well, Travis Shaw.’ But he’s not an established player at this time. He’s played very well — I don’t mean to take anything away from him. But it just seemed to make sense, and nobody disagreed with it that I talked to. Hanley was fine with it. So, it just made sense.
“And not that you have to rush it, but it gives us some time to get him out there, because I wouldn’t want to say, ‘Let’s wait until spring training, and let’s see if he can do it.’ Well, what happens if he can’t do it? So, you really need to know that more so now. And again, I think he’ll be able to, but I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. But we’d rather know that now than wait until spring training. Now, if our focus was, ‘We’re going to win the pennant this year, we’re going to win the division and go from there’ — and you still want to win every game you play; I don’t mean to take away from that — but maybe you do things differently.”
Ramirez was a late scratch for Friday’s Red Sox-Mets matchup with what acting Sox manager Torey Lovullo termed right shoulder fatigue.
Thumbnail photo via Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports Images
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