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Hanley hopes to pick up where he left off in '16

Now filling DH role, Red Sox slugger goes back to back with Betts in win
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The towering solo home run that Hanley Ramirez hit on Tuesday afternoon looked like it might land in Jupiter.

It didn't quite get that far, bouncing with a thud on the cement behind the berm in left-center in the first inning of Boston's 5-3 win over the Nationals.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The towering solo home run that Hanley Ramirez hit on Tuesday afternoon looked like it might land in Jupiter.

It didn't quite get that far, bouncing with a thud on the cement behind the berm in left-center in the first inning of Boston's 5-3 win over the Nationals.

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Ramirez's right shoulder still isn't at the point where he can play defense. However, his bat is doing just fine, thank you.

After finishing last season as one of the hottest, most dangerous hitters in the game, Ramirez took a shorter break than usual this offseason. In an effort to get ready for the World Baseball Classic, Ramirez played winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

Though his nagging right shoulder injury will keep him out of the Classic, the preparation has helped him continue the hitting momentum he gained last year.

"I was playing in the Dominican. I'm ahead of time this spring because I got my timing quicker and it allows me to get my swing quicker and faster," Ramirez said.

With David Ortiz now retired, Ramirez will hit cleanup and DH for the Red Sox while serving as protection for No. 3 hitter Mookie Betts.

Video: Hanley discusses replacing Big Papi, will to win

Ramirez's shot on Tuesday against Nats righty Joe Ross immediately followed the rocket on to the berm by Betts.

"I think all spring long, Hanley's timing has been good," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He's been recognizing breaking balls up in the strike zone and putting swings on some pitches that have been good. He's in a good place from an offensive standpoint. We've got the three-plus weeks remaining where we've got to do some work physically, get his arm going and get him on the field defensively at first base."

In 2015, Ramirez ran into some mechanical hitches at the plate while trying to play through injuries. It took him the first couple of months of last season to get his groove back. The finished product in '16 was a line of .286/.361/.505 with 30 homers and a career-high 111 RBIs.

"I'm trying to [start] it right where I left it. That's the goal this year," Ramirez said. "And stay healthy."

Ramirez doesn't get too specific on which adjustments he made last year. But he wants to bottle them.

"I kept working all year long," Ramirez said. "I never stopped working. Cage, lifting, everything. I found a routine and never got out of it."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Hanley Ramirez