Red Sox Hanley Ramirez Learns Left Field Quick


ESPN Boston‘s Gordon Edes reported, yesterday, on Hanley Ramirez‘s progress to making the shift from shortstop to left field. Making the change is “not exactly groundbreaking work,” according to Boston Red Sox first-base coach and outfield instructor Arnie Beyeler. Yet, for a player coming off of a laundry list of injuries, it is worth noting how they are treating Ramirez’s workouts.

Ramirez was the first position player to report to the Red Sox spring training camp last week and started working with Beyeler on how to play Fenway Park’s outfield. “Beyeler, a former infielder who played six seasons in the [Detroit] Tigers system, has worked daily with Ramirez in Jet Blue Park, where the Sox have a facsimile Green Monster in left field, complete with a former Fenway Park scoreboard.”

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While covering very difficult angles, that only the cathedral of Boston can deliver, will help better prepare him for what is to come, Ramirez’s workout time with Beyeler is only 15 minutes, each day. “‘I can’t hit him 25 fly balls and have him chase them,’ Beyeler said. ‘That would blow him out. We’ve got time.'”

Interesting. Anyone else out there play in an outfield before? Or better yet, anyone else catch flyballs with friends when they were kids? Did you get really tired out there, running for balls hit into the sky and dropping into your glove? How long did a game of ’21’ take you? Pretty sure it lasted longer than 15 minutes.

This questioning is not to say that a professional athlete of Ramirez’s quality needs more than a quarter of an hour to practice running after flyballs, but why would it burn him out? That short amount of time is likely, as a pure guess, only to see five to seven balls hit to Ramirez, between time watching him track the ball down and tossing it back. Beyeler is 51 years old; is he the one who is going to burn out, hitting balls to him?

Beyeler said, “He’s a pretty good athlete. He’s just got to learn how to catch balls off the wall, decide depth, get his arm stretched out.” All in the same time it takes someone to make a sandwich. A shortstop usually plays no more than 95 feet from home plate, while the left field fence, the Green Monster, is 310 feet. Deciding depth is a huge issue when playing that particular position in Boston.

Beyeler even admits that “he’s going to miss balls out there. Jonny [Gomes], who played the wall well, missed the first ball hit to him two years ago, and he’s an outfielder.” So it will be difficult for a player, normally using quick reflexes to grab a ball hit at him on the ground or a line drive to his face, now having to see the crack of the opposing bat from far away, picking up the flight of the ball into the sun, judging whether to run forward or run backward in any direction.

On top of that, the player also has to get used to judging whether to run back or turn to calibrate himself on where the ball may or may not carom off of the giant wall. Or the funny side wall in foul territory, that makes even the best of outfielders look like small children, scrambling for the ball that bounces to the ground in what can only be described as unnatural directions.

It’s true that nobody from Red Sox Nation wants to see Ramirez burn himself out. The man signed with the Red Sox after having an injury-plagued three seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, now wanting to prove his critics wrong that he is prone to such adversity. His offensive numbers were still impressive, hitting .283 with 13 home runs and 71 RBIs. A healthy Ramirez could potentially promise even more. Nobody wants to see that squandered by re-injuring his legs while running down flyballs. Ramirez has six weeks to learn the position, and it’s not rocket science. Let’s just hope that keeping his legs fresh is the right strategy, as Ramirez soaks up those minutes of experience with clear depth perception.