PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic – With the soothing shores of his native island crashing in the background, a cheerful Hanley Ramirez spotted a small group of Red Sox reporters having lunch and sat down next to them for an update on his health and overall state of mind as he prepares to switch positions for the second straight season .
In Punta Cana this weekend for David Ortiz’s Celebrity Golf Classic, Ramirez was affable, and clearly in a better state of mind than a couple of months ago, when his ailing right shoulder ended his season early.
“Great,” said Ramirez. “I’ve been working out. I’ll stop for a little bit [this weekend] and then go back.”
Ramirez left the Red Sox late in the season to concentrate on shoulder rehab in Miami, and feels that plan worked perfectly.
“The thing is, it was a good thing they did, when they sent me home, like two weeks or a week and a half before the season ended,” Ramirez said. “After a couple of weeks, I was ready to go. I was feeling strong after two weeks.”
Ramirez first banged up his left shoulder running into the wall at the end of April, and then ran into trouble with the other shoulder in July or August. The result was an utter lack of offense over the season’s final months from a player who has hit throughout his entire career.
Ramirez thinks that his decline in production – which he felt was mainly related to injuries – led to overblown scrutiny about his physique.
“The thing is, in April, nobody said anything,” Ramirez said. “I had 10 homers. I know how it is. It’s the media. When you’re struggling, things are going to come out. When you do good, I just got to hit and that’s it, and everything’s going to be fine.”
However, Ramirez said he will honor the request of president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to get “more athletic”. He has altered his training routine this winter and the plan is for him to be about 230 pounds for 2016.
Ramirez admitted that he used to train like a football player in the winter, but noted he needs to adapt as he gets older.
“That’s what we’re doing this year,” Ramirez said. “We’re concentrating on the smaller muscles inside the different ones. It’s what the medical staff on the Red Sox want and it’s what we’ve been doing. I’ve been doing a lot of cardio and agility because to play the infield, that’s the difference.”
While Ramirez would like to play Winter Ball in the Dominican, he realizes the Red Sox might rather he keep focusing on his workouts and return to health.
“Every year I try to play to get ready. If they let me, I play,” Ramirez said. “If they don’t let me, I just keep working in the gym and doing my thing to get ready.”
Ramirez’s transition to left field didn’t go well at all last year, but he has confidence that playing first base won’t be nearly as difficult for him to master.
“I’ve been in the infield my whole life,” Ramirez said. “This is nothing new for me. Just work on my hands, relaxing my hands, and that’s it. We’re going to concentrate on footwork and all that stuff in maybe in like a week with the team I was supposed to play Winter League with and just go there and try to get some work done.”
Ramirez will arrive to Spring Training a couple of weeks early and feels he’ll have plenty of time to master the art of first base with renowned instructor Brian Butterfield.
“What we did last year, towards the end of the year, he gave me some keys, and I was like, ‘Wow, this works.’ You see it with [Mike] Napoli,” said Ramirez. “Napoli was a catcher and he moved to first. He picked it. Butterfield, man, he’s good.”
“The outfield is different. You can see Bradley, he’s unbelievable. Or Mookie, I wish I could do that. I was clapping every time they made a good play because I know myself, I couldn’t do it,” Ramirez said. “Going to the infield, it’s different, it’s way different. I’m an infielder. I don’t know why you guys think it’s going to be hard. I just have to keep working every day and no doubt I’ll make some mistakes but we just have to learn from that. At the end of the season, just win and everything is going to be alright.”
As for the speculation the Red Sox might try to trade Ramirez, he hasn’t heard any of that from Dombrowski. Ramirez very much once to fulfill the final three seasons of his contract in Boston.
“Why you think I cried when they traded me the first time when I was in Double-A? But the thing is, he’s honest,” Ramirez said of Dombrowski. “He tells you what we wants, and you respect people like that. That’s why I feel great right now. He told me what he wants me to do. We set up all the points, and I’m fine with that, he’s fine with that.”
Here is a transcript of tonight’s conference call in which the Red Sox announced the acquisition of four-time All-Star closer
Dave Dombrowski started out by recognizing the events of the day:
“I just want to acknowledge the tragic events that took place in Paris today and are taking place as we speak. Our thoughts and prayers are with the French people and those that have been affected by those attacks. It just didn’t seem appropriate to start talking baseball without addressing what’s taking place across the Atlantic. We really were somewhat thinking if we should have this or not, but just thought it was appropriate to do so, but we didn’t want to do so without first acknowledging that.”
On why Kimbrel was the ultimate choice: “First and foremost, what was extremely important was the ability, because when we looked at Craig, we looked at him as a premium closer and there are various names out there, but one of the best in the game of baseball. There was no question that the years of control do make a difference, because you’re looking at the ability to control the contract as far as three years are concerned. And that was also able to make a difference as far as what we were able to give up, because we gave up a lot of good young players. We also thought that we’re going to have to give some quality to get quality. But giving the quality and having the three years made a significant difference.”
Getting someone with closing experience: “The key for us was we had identified a couple of guys that maybe stood above the rest as far as the ability to close, and the ability to get one of those guys we thought was extremely important. Because with the acquisition of Craig, we’re in a spot where we’ll move Koji to the eighth inning, and John Farrell really thought he’d be fine with that, knowing the type of individual that Koji is. And John made sure to reach out to Koji and spoke to him tonight already and said he was really good with the change of the role and that all he wants to do is pitch in the World Series again. He basically said, you don’t have to worry about me, I’ll pitch whenever you’re asked to and he acknowledged Kimbrel and understands the shift to the eighth inning, so I think that whole combination for us is really what made it work.”
Bullpen set for the most part: “I think this is enough of a major move that we need to make. Because when you shift Koji into the eight and Tazawa into the seventh, that’s significant. I can’t say we won’t do some tweaking as time goes on, I’m not really sure about that, but I think with the major moves, this is a big step for us and probably the major step we look to make at this point.”
Status update on Kimbrel? “He’s perfectly healthy. He feels great. He’s in the prime of his career. He’s 27. Our last scouting reports, which were late in the year in September, he was throwing 97 to 99 at that time with the good breaking ball. So he’s healthy, he’s been consistent throughout his career, he’s at the prime time, and so we look for him to be our guy back there for years to come.”
The haul: “Well, you don’t ever like to give up young talent. We think they’re very talented individuals. But I do think with the good job that the people in player-development, scouting, international operations have done, we do have some depth at those positions and we also have some other quality young players that we were asked about repeatedly. In addition to that, I think the real key for us is that we made this acquisition in acknowledging that we didn’t give anything up at the major-league level to affect our club this year. So, we were able to add an All-Star closer without giving up the big-league-level guys. And so, again, it’s talent that is good talent. Some of it’s a while away. Again, you don’t like to give up this type of talent. I think San Diego did a very fine job, but we’re happy, of course, with getting Craig.”
Ace will be a free agent: “Well, my guess would be — and again, these are only guesses at this time — going into the wintertime and with conversations we’ve had with clubs over the last month, my thought process is most likely any acquisition we’d make in the starting pitching would first happen as far as the free-agent field is concerned. You never know, but that would be my guess. I thought that our acquisition of the relief pitching aspect would more likely come through a trade. We’re in a spot that this is probably our major acquisition for the wintertime as far as the trade market is concerned. You never can tell, but that’s what my instincts tell me.”
The importance of hard throwers in bullpen: “I think it’s always been a great way to go. Again, you have to look at different ways you put a bullpen together and to me, it starts with having a quality, premium closer, somebody that can get a big strikeout, get out of a tough situation. Someone who gets the save for you eventually. There’s different ways to go about it. Having that power arm out there at the back end is really important. I think it really strengthens the back end of our ‘pen overall then because you’ve got a closer there, a guy that’s closed in the eighth inning for us and in the seventh. You see the way clubs have been successful, I think it’s important if you can do that. I’d like to combine it with real good starting pitching too and then you’ll really be in a quality spot. Having a strong bullpen is extremely important.”
The timeline of the deal: “We were working on it during the GM meetings. We’ve actually talked to San Diego almost since the very end of the season, just about various things, and they were really in a little bit of a hold as they went through their managerial hiring process, so it picked up right before going to the GM meetings and picked up as soon as we got there. We met on Monday face to face and really conversed about this, went back and forth on names. The whole GM meetings, we talked numerous times, met a few times, talked on the phone numerous times, but also did talk to other clubs. That was something that was taking place the whole time period. I was hopeful that we could make a deal after we left, but you never knew about those things. We actually finalized things this morning — it was about 8:30, I was in the office doing some work, catching up, got in here earlier than that. A.J. Preller called me around 5:30 in the morning his time, he was thinking about it and called me, and then we consummated the deal then, tentatively, agreed to things, and we had to go through different stages, medical people talking to one other, updating ownership at the time, and myself, too. That was really the time frame.”
Craig Kimbrel’s reaction
On being traded last year: “It definitely opened up my eyes, it definitely made you grow quite a bit. Especially with the trade being so last minute, the night before Opening Day. Things went kind of fast. I could barely know my teammates. I’m looking forward to having spring training to learn the team I’m going to be on this year. That’s going to be very nice. I felt like I’m from the south and playing in atlanta for that duration kind of spoiled me a little bit, being so close to home. I learned a lot about what it takes to move away from home and move away from my family and learn how to play the game that way. It definitely made me a stronger player and definitely a stronger person.”
Being traded twice in a year: “It’s part of the game. The more we looked at the game, there’s players who move around a lot more. From my view, especially being out of the bullpen, it’s something I won’t say I want to get to used to, but it’s become more common. Being moved to the American league, I’m excited. It’s a league of big bats and as a pitcher you want to have the opportunity to face those big bats. It’s a challenge in itself and I’m looking forward to.”
On Pitching in Boston: “The history, the fans in Boston, the atmosphere is always awesome every time I’ve been there. You can tell the history and everything behind it there, so to be able to put the uniform on, to be able to play in front of those fans, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
BOSTON – Though Hanley Ramirez’s right shoulder ailment – the one that had him out of the lineup again on Monday night – didn’t become public knowledge until a few days ago, it has bothered him for several weeks.
And it perhaps explains why Ramirez has had such limited production since the All-Star break, a span in which he’s hit .183 with no homers, seven RBIs and a .449 OPS.
“I made one throw here at home,” said Ramirez. “I don’t remember what month it was. And I hurt something, but I played through it. And then it happened again last homestead here. Since then it wasn’t feeling right and I was playing through it.
“But it got to the point where I took it to the manager and the trainer and they understood and they didn’t want me to go out there if I wasn’t 100 percent. That’s what we’ve been dealing with right now. I’ve just been waiting to get back to Boston to get it checked out with a doctor.”
Ramirez was set to be examined prior to Monday night’s game against the Yankees, at which point the Red Sox will have a better read on how to proceed.
When Ramirez was out of action from Aug. 8-16, the club said it was due to discomfort from when he fouled a ball off his foot. Truth be told, Ramirez said, his shoulder was the main thing that was bothering him tat that time.
“But I didn’t say anything until the last game in Detroit [in early August]. This is not me,” Ramirez said. “I’m such a good hitter and I can’t look like that on the field. But I didn’t want to say anything because I wanted to play.”
The production didn’t improve when Ramirez came back from that hiatus. In fact, in an eight-game stretch, he hit .097 with no RBIs, after which the club held him out of the lineup for four straight games, including Monday.
Ramirez got off to a monster start at the plate this season, banging out 10 homers in April. But in his last game that month, he sprained his left shoulder while running into the wall. A few weeks after that, Ramirez was smoked by a line in the left hand.
“If you go back and think how this could happen, to get hit by a line-drive in that spot — ‘m a lower-hand hitter. My power comes from my left hand, not by top hand. It’s unbelievable,” said Ramirez.
Though Ramirez has been maligned by fans and media mainly for his defense this season, his lack of offense has probably hurt the Red Sox more. Ramirez can never remember a season in which so many different injuries piled up on him.
Until Monday, Ramirez never really spoke much about his injuries. Instead, he just played through them and took the criticism.
“They don’t know those little things. My teammates know and the team,” Ramirez said. “So that’s the difference. You can control what you can control. They don’t know what’s going on in here, what’s going on with my body. I respect that because they pay to see you prove every day that you’re there. They want us to do the best every day. I know I’ve tried my best every day when I’ve been out there, but some things don’t go the right way.”
For nearly a decade, it was a certainty that David Ortiz would only need his first baseman’s mitt for a road Interleague or World Series game, in which the Red Sox did not have the designated hitter. But things changed on Sunday, as the slugger got the nod at first and the heavily-slumping Mike Napoli was on the bench.
Hanley Ramirez served as the designated hitter. This was Ortiz’s first start at first base in a game being played under American League rules since June 22, 2006, at Seattle. It was his first start at first at Fenway since July 16, 2005 against the Yankees.
“Well, today’s lineup I think gives us the best lineup we can put on the field,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “[We] Recognize that it’s been quite some time since David has played first base in an American League game. It also gives us the ability to put [Alejandro] De Aza in left field. It’s about putting the best lineup on the field today.”
Ortiz playing first will not become a staple for the Red Sox. This seemed to be an isolated occurrence, and the Red Sox have a day off on Monday in which the 39-year-old DH will be able to rest his legs.
I don’t know how frequently we would see this going forward,” said Farrell. “David and I had a chance to talk after the game last night, then this morning. Tomorrow with an off-day this was kind of an ideal set of circumstances to get him at first base.”
If Napoli continues to struggle, the Red Sox would have the option of getting Brock Holt more regular playing time at first base once Dustin Pedroia returns from the disabled list.
Ortiz has generally held his own while playing first for the Red Sox, making standout plays in the World Series in 2004 and ’07.
“A guy like me, when I play first base, the thing is that when you’re playing defense out there you got to do a lot of bending and a lot of moving. You’re moving a lot every time the pitcher makes a pitch,” said Ortiz. “So maybe the next day you feel a little sore or whatever, but it goes away. I kind of start feeling things out as the game goes and try not to go too crazy.”
Napoli’s struggles have been one of the surprises of the season. The first baseman is hitting .192 with 10 homers, 30 RBIs and a .652 OPS.
“Napoli’s what, 32 years old? He’s still young,” said Ortiz. “He’s going to come out of it. It’s just not that easy to come out of it. You can have a good game and that gives you the positive vibe, and all of a sudden you are hitting. It’s just like, when you never see that game come, you just keep on digging and digging and digging, and it’s hard to come out of it.”
Highly-touted lefty prospect Eduardo Rodriguez will make his Major League debut for the Red Sox when he starts on Thursday night at Texas.
The Red Sox will make a corresponding roster move before Thursday’s game. Manager John Farrell said that he isn’t bumping anyone from the rotation, and that he will go with six starters this time through. The Red Sox are in the midst of a stretch of 20 games in a row without a day off.
At this point, Rodriguez — ranked as the fourth best Red Sox prospect by MLB Pipeline — is only expected to make the one start before going back down to Triple-A. But Farrell has reserved the right to change his mind.
The Red Sox acquired Rodriguez from the Orioles for Andrew Miller on July 31, 2014.
Rodriguez, 22, is 4-3 with a 2.98 ERA in eight starts for Triple-A Pawtucket this season.
David Ortiz, off to his worst start to a season since 2010, was dropped to fifth in the batting order tonight by manager John Farrell.
This is the first time Ortiz has started a game at a spot other then third or fourth since 2012, under Bobby Valentine.
Pablo Sandoval will hit third, followed by Hanley Ramirez, at Target Field against Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey.
Hello from sunny Bradenton, where the red-hot Red Sox (six straight wins) brought a bus that included nearly all of their best players.
Opponent: Pirates (4-3).
TV/Radio: None. So make sure to follow closely on twitter (@ianmbrowne) and redsox.com.
Today’s lineup: Victorino RF, Pedroia 2B, Ortiz DH, Ramirez LF, Sandoval 3B, Napoli 1B, Bogaerts SS, Bradley CF, Swihart C.
Starting matchup: Buchholz vs. Burnett.
Available out of the bullpen: Ogando, Hembree, Couch, Celestino, Scott, Rodriguez, McCarthy, Younginger.
Recent stories of interest on redsox.com:
Mookie looks ready to take over the leadoff spot. http://m.redsox.mlb.com/news/article/112199708/mookie-betts-looks-ready-to-take-over-leadoff-spot-for-red-sox
Kelly improving plan of attack: http://m.redsox.mlb.com/news/article/112198978/red-sox-right-hander-joe-kelly-kelly-displays-improved-command-against-yankees
Andrew Miller credits Red Sox for making a strong run at him in offseason. http://m.redsox.mlb.com/news/article/112199706/left-hander-andrew-miller-contemplated-return-to-red-sox-in-offseason
By Ian Browne/MLB.com
Here we go. Ready for the first day game after the night game of Spring Training.
Opponent: Miami Marlins (0-1).
TV/Radio: None (So make sure to follow my tweets and stories for everything you miss).
Today’s lineup: Betts CF; Holt SS; Ortiz DH; Ramirez LF; Victorino RF; Nava 1B; Hanigan C; Cecchini 3B; Weeks 2B.
Starting matchup: Justin Masterson vs. Tom Koehler.
Available out of bullpen: Owens, Uehara, Layne, Ross, Hembree, Couch, Paulino.
Recent stories of interest on redsox.com
Pedroia, Bogaerts have impactful starts at plate: http://m.redsox.mlb.com/news/article/111455118/xander-bogaerts-dustin-pedroia-get-off-to-powerful-starts-for-red-sox
Kelly struggles in Spring Opener: http://m.redsox.mlb.com/news/article/111457362/red-sox-pitcher-joe-kelly-struggles-in-first-grapefruit-league-start
Bradley comes out swinging against Twins: http://m.redsox.mlb.com/news/article/111459906/red-sox-outfielder-jackie-bradley-jr-comes-out-swinging-against-twins
Some good, old-fashioned t-shirt fun: http://m.redsox.mlb.com/news/article/111406038/clay-buchholz-has-t-shirts-made-for-red-sox-starting-rotation
For all Red Sox info, follow all of our stories at http://www.redsox.com, and follow me on twitter (@ianmbrowne).
By Ian Browne/MLB.com
Here here, the games are here! The Red Sox will play every day (sometimes twice in a day) between today and April 4. The lone exception is March 25, an off-day on the game schedule.
Opponent: Minnesota Twins (0-0).
TV/Radio: MLB Network; MLB.TV; 93.7 FM WEEI.
Bogaerts SS; Pedroia 2B; Sandoval 3B; Napoli 1B; Craig LF; LaHair DH; Brentz RF; Bradley CF; Vazquez C.
Starting matchup: Joe Kelly vs. Kyle Gibson.
Available out of the bullpen for the Red Sox: Barnes, Johnson, Tazawa, Mujica, Ogando, Celestino, Ramirez.
Red Sox reserves of note: Berry, Swihart, Marrero.
Recent stories of interest on Redsox.com:
Red Sox cautious but optimistic on Rusney: http://m.redsox.mlb.com/news/article/111356320/rest-helps-center-fielder-rusney-castillo-but-red-sox-proceeding-with-caution
Rotation quickly forming bond: http://m.redsox.mlb.com/news/article/111154038/revamped-red-sox-rotation-quickly-forming-bond
Healthy Breslow could be important for Red Sox: http://m.redsox.mlb.com/news/article/111193894/healthy-spring-training-important-to-red-sox-pitcher-craig-breslow
For all Red Sox info, follow all of our stories at http://www.redsox.com, and follow me on twitter (@ianmbrowne).
So why did the Red Sox extend John Farrell’s contract through 2017 with an option for ’18?
The main reason, obviously, is that they believe very strongly in him, and last season’s disappointment did nothing to change that.
This also takes away any chance that Farrell’s contract could become a distraction. Remember how Terry Francona’s lack of an extension seemed like a non-story in 2011?
The Red Sox, in my humble opinion, were smart to get out in front of this one, announcing the deal on the same day as the first official team workout.