Ramirez's rebound could give Sox elite lineup

March 28th, 2016

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Flash back to last April, when Hanley Ramirez was the best hitter on the Red Sox, and one of the most impactful in the American League.

What if the 2016 Red Sox can get that Hanley back and keep him for a full season?

"Well, if we can take April and multiply that by six, we're OK," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.

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For all the talk about Ramirez's switch to first base, what the Red Sox need most is the return of his bat. A thriving Ramirez gives Boston an impact hitter behind Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz.

Ramirez could be the X Factor that decides whether the Red Sox' offense is above average or one of the elite units in the game.

"It's a middle of the order bat that was an elite hitter in the National League for a long time," said Farrell. "We can talk all we want about how it lengthens out our lineup. You're talking about a premier hitter. That will change anybody's team."

When it comes to Ramirez's ultimately forgettable 2015 season, the demarcation point was April 29, the night he banged into the wall in foul territory during a game at Fenway Park.

Up to that moment, he was hitting .293 with 10 homers, 22 RBIs and a .999 OPS in 82 at-bats. After that moment, he hit .238 with nine homers, 31 RBIs and a .644 OPS in 319 at-bats.

"He crashes into a wall, he wasn't right. At the time, we don't want to acknowledge that, and we don't want to think that's the case," said Farrell. "But when you look back, that had a significant impact on his performance. He's a conscientious guy. That's the one thing that I can tell you that we've come to know of him. He cares. He's conscientious. So when he wasn't able to put up the production that he typically does, you know what, that affected him."

Now, Ramirez has a chance to change the narrative.

It started with offseason conditioning. Ramirez shed some of the bulk he had last year and looks more like the athletic player that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and Farrell asked him to be.

"I think over this last past year, this is the most confidence I've had," Ramirez said. "I'm seeing the ball better at the plate. I've shortened my swing and I'm feeling better."

Ramirez has been noticeably more upbeat this spring than he was last season, which is a sign of how comfortable he feels with his overall health and the transition to first.

"It's going to be a good season," said Ramirez. "Not just for me, but for the team, too."