BOSTON — No sane baseball observer can watch Hanley Ramirez play left field for the Red Sox and categorize him as anything but a below-average defender. But despite the converted shortstop’s season-long struggle in left, a position change remains highly unlikely.
Acting Red Sox manager Torey Lovullo on Monday reiterated the sentiment that Ramirez’s defense is improving, even after the outfielder’s misplay of a Lonnie Chisenhall line drive allowed two runs to score in an eventual 8-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
“Hanley is a work in progress,” Lovullo said. “He’s made improvements in the outfield. I think, as we continue moving forward with Hanley, that’s going to be a play that he will feel comfortable making. We have to understand where he’s come from, where he’s at right now. I think, all things being said, it was a tough play.”
Ramirez had missed six consecutive games with a foot injury entering Monday, and the Red Sox in his absence had fielded a more defensively sound outfield featuring Mookie Betts in center and a combination of Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo and Alejandro De Aza at the corners.
His return … well, it complicates things a bit. Betts is all but locked in as Boston’s everyday center fielder, but the two remaining spots aren’t nearly as cut-and-dried given the team’s desire to give Ramirez, Bradley and Castillo all adequate playing time. (De Aza likely will see his role diminish with all five outfielders healthy.)
Lovullo addressed this conundrum before Monday’s game, and his game plan basically was as follows: Bradley and Castillo will see the field plenty, but Mookie and Hanley are the top dogs.
“Of all the (outfielders), Hanley and Mookie have been here all year long,” Lovullo said. “They deserve to play the bulk of the time, get most of the innings. When we put them in a situation where they need a down day or rest, we’ll rotate Jackie and Rusney in there. I think it’s perfectly clear they deserve it. They’ve had great seasons, especially Mookie’s case. He’s put himself on the map. We don’t want to take anything away from him.”
Ramirez went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk Monday in his return to lineup.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images