Healthy Hanley confident about switch to first
After learning to play left last season, former shortstop will move back to infield
PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic -- With the waves on 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," Ramirez said about how he was feeling. "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 2015 season to concentrate on shoulder rehab in Miami, and he believes 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 well 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 is honoring the request from president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski for him 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 said he used to train like a football player in the winter, but he 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 Republic, he realizes the Red Sox might rather he keep focusing on his workouts and return to full 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 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 at Spring Training a couple of weeks early, and he believes 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 [Jackie] Bradley, he's unbelievable. Or Mookie [Betts], 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. 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 all right."
As for the speculation the Red Sox might try to trade Ramirez, he hasn't heard any of that from Dombrowski. Ramirez very much wants to fulfill the final three seasons of his contract in Boston.
"Why do you think I cried when they traded me [in 2005] when I was in Double-A? But the thing is, he's honest," Ramirez said of Dombrowski. "He tells you what he 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."