All the fuss over the starting rotation has almost overshadowed the strong start to the season for Hanley Ramirez. It’s time to start paying attention, because what the new left fielder for the Boston Red Sox has been doing this month has been historic.
Ramirez tied a franchise record for home runs hit prior to the month of May with his 10th of the season Wednesday night. His two-run blast in the third inning drove in the winning runs to secure a series victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, while also securing Ramirez’s place in franchise history.
It’s fitting that David Ortiz was on base to be driven in by Ramirez, seeing as he had set the club standard with 10 home runs in April 2006. After the game, Ortiz revealed to reporters that this hot stretch from Ramirez has a hint of familiarity to it.
"“That guy, man,” Ortiz said of Ramirez. “It’s crazy the way he hits the ball, how hard he hits it, isn’t it? Oh my goodness. Reminds me of my younger days.”"
Comparing Ramirez to a young Big Papi is pretty high praise, but the 31-year old is also comparing favorably to his own best years. The 10 homers Ramirez has hit this month ties his career-high from June 2008 for the most he has hit in any month.
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After signing a 4-year, $88 million contract to return to the franchise that once drafted him, Ramirez wasted little time in showing the Red Sox that they had made a wise investment. The season began with Ramirez crushing his first two homers of the season, including a grand slam. He became only the third player in franchise history to hit a grand slam on Opening Day, and the second hitter in major league history to have hit a grand slam in two different openers.
As impressive as that start was, Ramirez has been absolutely scorching over the past week. In the past seven days he is hitting .346 with a 1.280 OPS, 5 home runs and 10 RBI. In the span of a week, Ramirez went from having a good season to an MVP-caliber one, while launching the Red Sox offense all the way up to second in the majors in runs scored.
"“[He’s] a force in the middle of the order,” said manager John Farrell. “Different types of pitches, key moments. Controls the strike zone. Fun to watch.”"
Ramirez is now tied with Seattle’s Nelson Cruz for the major league lead in home runs and RBI, while the 22 runs that he has driven in are the most he has ever collected in the month of April. Ramirez has only had three months in his career in which he had more than 22 RBI, all of which came in the summer months between June and August.
As the weather heats up, so does Ramirez. If he’s off to a blistering start in April, when New England is still in the midst of thawing out from a seemingly endless winter, what can we expect from him when the warm weather comes?
"“What can I say? I just came here to help this team win everyday,” said Ramirez. “It’s not about me, it’s about the team. We’ve got to keep winning and be at the top.”"
Ramirez has already emulated Ortiz with his home run barrage this month, but his focus remains on following in his friend’s footsteps by earning a few World Series rings. If he keeps hitting at anywhere near this pace, his bat may just carry the Red Sox to another title.