After signing an $88-million contract with the Boston Red Sox and having a disappointing first season with the team, Hanley Ramirez is expected to play winter ball with the Licey Tigers in the Dominican Republic. Ramirez told Enrique Rojas from ESPN Deportes that he has been working out for the past two weeks without pain in his shoulder. It would be easy to assume that the move was made to help Ramirez with his transition from left-field to first base, but he told Rojas that his role with the Licey Tigers will be mostly as a designated hitter. His biggest problem last season was with his defense and his workout in Spring Training was not enough to prepare him as a left fielder, so it comes out as a surprise that he will see more time as a DH.
The fact that Ramirez is willing to play winter ball also means a lot. That’s not something you would expect from a guy that is known for his bad attitude and unwillingness to do extra work. Playing winter ball is something common for young players and prospects, but not for veterans like Ramirez. In Licey, Ramirez will be joining teammates like Jonathan Aro and Marco Hernandez, while other rookies like Travis Shaw, Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez are in other winter ball teams.
In the first month of last season, Ramirez hit 10 home runs and was one of the team’s best hitters until he injured his shoulder while crashing into a wall in left field. After his injury, Ramirez never went back to being that power hitter the Red Sox needed and having him off the field was one of the keys to the team’s success at the end of the season. After posting a .249 batting average with 19 home runs and 53 RBI, playing winter ball won’t hurt Ramirez. The least we can do is to expect Ramirez to become a great offensive player again, because I don’t think his defense will improve, regardless of the position he’s playing.