Hanley arrives early, excited about switch to 1B

February 17th, 2016

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A collection of media members wielding cameras whipped into action the second Hanley Ramirez wandered over to first base on Wednesday morning.

The position switch that has been talked about since August is a full-go, and nobody wanted to miss the first chapter of Spring Training.

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In fact, position players aren't due into camp for another six days, but Ramirez picked Wednesday as his arrival date, because he wants to take all the time he can get.

The tutorials with renowned infield instructor Brian Butterfield should start no later than Thursday. Butterfield was tied up in organizational meetings on Wednesday, so Ramirez worked with Minor League coaches during his brief fielding session.

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"I'm really excited to work with Butter," said Ramirez. "He has some magic."

In 2013, Butterfield helped Mike Napoli make the transition from catcher to first base, and Napoli nearly won a Gold Glove Award that year.

There was another Napoli connection on Wednesday: Ramirez was using his former teammate's first-base glove. Perhaps Ramirez can send it back to Napoli at Indians camp once he gets his own.

"Exactly. I'm still waiting for mine," Ramirez said. "I haven't gotten it yet. He gave it to me. We're good buddies."

For 5-6 weeks, Ramirez has been taking reps at first base with Red Sox player development staffer Laz Gutierrez, who lives in South Florida.

"Every day, Monday through Friday," said Ramirez. "It was good. Ground balls, you just have to get comfortable and get good footwork. That's what we were doing down there in Miami."

Unlike last season's switch from shortstop to left field, which didn't take from the beginning, Ramirez thinks this latest transition has a chance to be a success story.

"I know that area in the infield," Ramirez said. "It's different. I'm really happy to be back in the infield. It's been a while since I've taken ground balls in a real game, and I'm real excited about it."

With David Ortiz retiring after the coming season, could Ramirez switch to designated hitter in 2017?

"It's too early for that. I think what David did in that position is going to be hard to cover. I just try to copy him and the good things he does on and off the field," Ramirez said. "If I win a Gold Glove, what's going to happen next year? It's too far. I don't make those decisions. I've got a boss."

Ramirez was affable throughout a 10-minute session with reporters on Wednesday. The only question that seemed to annoy him a little was about his forgettable 2015 season.

"Oh my God, that's in the past," Ramirez said. "Last year was a horrible year, not [just for] me. We didn't go to the playoffs. Like I always say, it's not one person. We stay together -- the whole team. The whole team, it was bad, it was bad."

After focusing more on agility in the offseason in hopes of becoming the more "athletic player" that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski asked him to be, Ramirez hopes to regain his hitting stroke. Through the final few months of 2015, when Ramirez's body ached with a variety of nagging injuries, he went through probably the worst prolonged slump of his career.

"I don't like to talk about myself, but if I stay on the field the whole season, 150-plus games, good things can happen," Ramirez said. "And the goal is to go to the playoffs first. That's the first goal. Clinch as early as we can. That's my goal. Just clinch, and go from there."