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Talented trio covers Sox's corner infield spots

Devers out to build on impressive debut; Hanley, Moreland healthy and ready to go
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- With the start of Spring Training less than three weeks away, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. MLB.com is going around the horn to break down each area of the Red Sox, continuing today with corner infield.

For a team that needs to improve on an American League-low of 168 homers last season, the presence of young slugger Rafael Devers will be a welcome sight for the Red Sox.

BOSTON -- With the start of Spring Training less than three weeks away, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. MLB.com is going around the horn to break down each area of the Red Sox, continuing today with corner infield.

For a team that needs to improve on an American League-low of 168 homers last season, the presence of young slugger Rafael Devers will be a welcome sight for the Red Sox.

So, too, will the return to health of Hanley Ramirez, who plans on seeing far more action at first base than in 2017, when he was almost exclusively a designated hitter.

Meanwhile, first baseman Mitch Moreland, who was re-signed in January, has proven to be just about a lock for 22-23 homers.

At the corners, the Red Sox should get their share of production. And it starts with the 21-year-old Devers, who belted 10 homers in 222 at-bats after his callup in July.

Video: Devers on mental, physical adjustments for 2018

Over a full season, that projects to more than 30 home runs for the third baseman.

After getting acclimated down the stretch, Devers feels he's in good position to build off what he did last year and be more consistent.

"I've just been working hard physically and getting right mentally, because I know a long season is coming up, and I need to be ready to play the full season," Devers said recently through interpreter Daveson Perez. "I'm just working on everything. That has to do with having the mental portion where you don't get down on yourself. Last year I got a little down on myself and had a bit of a bad streak. Working on that, the mental part. And working on knowing what's coming, from a physical aspect and knowing what to do in certain situations."

There is a Red Sox employee who is a pretty big fan of Devers.

Video: Devers named Red Sox's Pipeline hitter of the year

"Man that kid is going to be a phenom," said David Ortiz. "I mean, he reminds me of myself a lot because you know, at that age you come into the league all wild, just trying to have fun and get things done, and the little time that he had, he impressed me. Because he's not into the mechanical side of the game yet, he's just out there having fun, playing the game without any experience. I'm very excited to see the things I'm seeing coming out of him."

A smile came over Devers when he was told of Big Papi's endorsement.

"I don't take it lightly and it's an honor to have him say that," Devers said. "I just want to do my best to not let him down and make sure those words mean something and not have it be just empty."

If the best of Devers is still to come, Ramirez's mission is to regain his 2016 swing and provide the consistent production he lacked last year.

Video: Hanley discusses his health and J.D. Martinez

Playing with discomfort in both shoulders, Ramirez slashed .242/.323/.402 with 23 homers and 62 RBIs in '17. An offseason surgery on his left shoulder has Ramirez feeling free again when he swings. He also looked leaner.

"I know I can hit," Ramirez said. "I can get 100 RBIs and 30-plus homers if I'm healthy. That's what we're working for this offseason. There's been no offseason for me."

While Moreland generally had the numbers the Red Sox expected last season (22 homers, 79 RBIs), he did it while playing through a fractured left big toe for a couple of months. That leaves the left-handed hitter thinking he can do more if he is playing without that pain.

Video: Moreland signing opens up options for Red Sox

"I don't like pointing fingers at things, but I know it didn't feel good," said Moreland. "It didn't feel good trying to go out there and fight through something. That's who I am, I'm going to try to go out there and play."

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

Boston Red Sox, Rafael Devers, Mitch Moreland, Hanley Ramirez