Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz plans to teach teammate Hanley Ramirez the art of being a designated hitter before conceding the role to him.
Trying to find a position for Hanley Ramirez to play on the baseball field is a bit like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. He doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, but after last year’s disastrous attempt to convert him into a left fielder, the Boston Red Sox are now forced to test him out at first base.
It remains to be seen if Ramirez will prove to be any less of a liability in his return to the infield, but the good news is that it’s not expected to be a long-term solution. With David Ortiz planning to retire after the 2016 season the designated hitter role will soon be available.
Is Ramirez open to the idea of becoming a full-time DH?
"“Hell yeah,” proclaimed an enthusiastic Ramirez when asked by reporters at the Red Sox Winter Weekend about the prospect of DHing. “When you’ve got two things to do, play defense and offense (versus) just sitting in the dugout, it’s a little different.”"
The art of being a DH isn’t as easy as one might expect. Some players feel that they are too detached from the game when they spend most of it on the bench, which effects their rhythm when they step to the plate. It takes a specific mind frame to prepare for the role on an everyday basis, but luckily for Ramirez he’ll have arguably the greatest DH in history as his mentor.
"“This year I’m going to talk to him about it and take him through things I normally like to do,” said Ortiz. “In case it happens, he will be ready for it. I’ve got no problem showing my boy anything that I know.”"
Ramirez’s exposure to being a DH is limited given that he spent the bulk of his career in the National League, but the small sample size we do have suggests he won’t need much help adapting to the role. In 11 games as a DH last year Ramirez hit .295 with a 1.001 OPS, while for his career he has hit .316 with a .946 OPS in 25 games in that role.
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While it seems a foregone conclusion that Ramirez will end up as the DH for the Red Sox once Ortiz rides off into the sunset, that transition would then leave Boston without an everyday first baseman. The team would need Travis Shaw to prove that last year’s surprise breakout wasn’t a fluke or that a prospect like Sam Travis is ready for the big leagues a year from now. Otherwise they may need to turn to the free agent market to lure an expensive veteran or cash in more chips from their coveted farm system to swing a trade. If none of those options pan out then they may end up stuck with Ramirez at first base beyond this season.
That’s not a scenario the Red Sox are eager to encounter. His atrocious defense is an obvious concern, but sticking him in the DH role should help keep him healthy enough for his bat to return to form. Ramirez hit .293/.341/.659 with 10 home runs last April before he injured his shoulder crashing into a wall in Fenway’s left field. Moving to first base means there will be less walls for him to run into, but he would be even further protected as a DH.
Ideally Ramirez will slide into the DH role in 2017, where he should thrive following the advice he receives from Ortiz. Let’s just hope that he isn’t getting too far ahead of himself already. Is anyone else concerned about how eager Ramirez seems to cast his glove aside permanently? Right now he has to be focused on learning a new position rather than counting down the days until he no longer needs to concern himself with defense.
It’s great that Ortiz is willing to teach Ramirez how to be a DH. Now who’s going to teach him patience?