Padres hope Ramirez will be answer at short

Manager Green says willingness to learn clinched decision to sign shortstop

February 21st, 2016

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The first time Padres manager Andy Green sat across from Alexei Ramirez was during the General Managers Meetings in November in Boca Raton, Fla.

The Padres were desperately looking for a shortstop to stop or at least slow what had been a carousel at the position, and they had their eyes on Ramirez, a free agent coming off eight seasons with the White Sox.

Green, on the job for only two weeks at the time, had done his research on Ramirez and was well aware of the 34-year-old's track record of durability, dependability and consistency at the plate.

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But what Green wanted to know from Ramirez right then and there actually had little to do with the intricacies of baseball itself.

"I wanted to check his pulse and see if he was willing to learn," Green said.

How did Green go about that?

"I asked him in the middle of [the discussion] if he was willing to be coached. And he said yes. In that moment everyone is going to answer politically correct, because you're trying to get a job on the team," Green said.

"But the first time I saw Alexei after we signed him, he came up to me and asked what I had for him: 'What do you want to teach me?'"

Ramirez agreed to a one-year deal for $3 million with a club option for 2017 that could pay him $4 million. He might not be the long-term answer that the Padres are looking for, but they could certainly do worse than Ramirez.

After all, consider that the Padres have used 18 different shortstops since 2009.

Ramirez was in the clubhouse in Peoria on Sunday, two days ahead of the report date for the position players. The first full-squad workout is set for Wednesday.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity here. I'm excited to give 100 percent to every game with my new club," Ramirez said through a team translator on Sunday morning.

"I'm very happy. I'm here to help the team, and I'm also here to win. I'm going to get behind the other guys on the infield and the entire team to be able to get to that point of winning."

The Padres were drawn to Ramirez for several reasons. For one, he's played at least 154 games in each of the past six seasons. Additionally, according to, Ramirez swung at fewer pitches outside the strike zone in 2015 (33.5 percent) than he has since '09 (32.3) while his walk rate (5 percent) last season was the highest that it's been since '11 (7.5).

And the Padres put heavy stock in Ramirez's second-half performance last season, as he hit .277/.325/.432 with eight home runs and 35 RBIs in 70 games after the All-Star break.

"Something changed in the middle of the season," Ramirez said.

The Padres are hoping something changes this season at a position that has long been a conundrum for the organization.

"There was a hunger to improve himself," Green said of meeting with Ramirez. "I think he had offers to be a utility guy that may have even paid him more at other places. But he believes he's an everyday shortstop. I believe he's an everyday shortstop.

"We're going to lean heavily on him."