Hanley confident he'll pick up fellow infielders

Former shortstop excited about move to first, believes slimming down will help

January 23rd, 2016

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- With a blizzard swirling around outside at Red Sox Winter Weekend, a slimmed-down Hanley Ramirez talked about the type of plays he envisions making at first base in the coming season.

Ramirez wants to give Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and Pablo Sandoval the confidence that they can throw the ball into the dirt and he will "pick" them up.

"They know," Ramirez said. "I told them last year, 'Just throw the ball. Throw the ball in the ground. Don't throw it above my head, over my head. Throw it in the ground, and I've got it.' I just want them to feel comfortable. That's the key."

As a shortstop most of his career, Ramirez knows how much better off an infield is if it has full confidence in who it is throwing to.

"When you've got a good first baseman -- like Adrian [Gonzalez], I played with Adrian in L.A. -- he used to tell me to throw the ball in the ground or, to make it easy, throw it in my chest," Ramirez said. "That's the same thing I want to bring to these guys. That's very important."

Ramirez has already been taking ground balls near his home in Miami under occasional supervision of Red Sox mental skills coach Laz Gutierrez.

"We're fortunate because somebody in our office, Laz Gutierrez, lives right by him," said Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. "Even though Laz has a different responsibility from the mental aspect, he did play. He's got a pulse of that. He knows Hanley well. So they've started that process."

For Ramirez, the real work will start in Spring Training, and he plans on arriving even before pitchers and catchers. Infield instructor Brian Butterfield will undoubtedly be ready for him whenever he arrives.

It's clear that Ramirez isn't as bulky as last year, when perhaps he over-prioritized hitting home runs.

"Honestly, I feel light," Ramirez said. "I'm 234, 235. It's good. It's going to be good for my batting. After I started working out, dropping some weight, I was feeling the difference. It's a good idea. I'm going to keep trying to go down. It's very important. Now that I'm [losing weight], I'm like, 'Wow. 'It's good.'

"I changed something in my swing. I don't know if I should say or not. I don't want to say anything right now. We've just got to see it during the season."