Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez will be out at least a few days with an injury, but will designated hitter David Ortiz really play first base?
Do the Red Sox really have any other option?
Last night’s 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners practically demands that Ortiz stay in the lineup, even as they move to play the Los Angeles Dodgers for a three-game series starting on Friday. As many baseball fans are well aware, the National League rules keep the DH spot out of the lineup, requiring the pitcher to take at-bats. It’s only three games, but it’s also vital that the Red Sox get some run support, as one of their biggest hitters is out of the lineup.
Christopher Smith of MassLive.com reported that “Hanley Ramirez’s X-rays and MRI on his left wrist came back negative. It was determined he has a sprained wrist, although Red Sox manager John Farrell said ‘he’s not a DL candidate at this point. […] Would expect it to be a couple of days at least.'”
Farrell said that he still needs to talk to Ortiz about making the move to first base for those three games; however, Smith added, “[Ortiz] has announced he’ll retire at the end of the of the season because of the issues he has with his Achilles, feet and legs. The injury risk of him playing the field will be factored into the Red Sox’s decision.”
This conversation never would have been a necessity, had it not been for the fact that the Red Sox are 3-7 in their last 10 games. Their heartbreaking losses have placed them three games back of the Baltimore Orioles and one game back of the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East division. They are also a half-game back of the Detroit Tigers for the last AL wildcard spot. Detroit pulled ahead of Boston last night with their eighth victory in their last 10 games. The Houston Astros, the Mariners, and the New York Yankees are also breathing down the necks of Red Sox Nation, being only a few games behind them. The AL race is a tight one and the Red Sox cannot afford to leave their starting pitchers hanging with no run support.
Despite all of that dire and depressing data, does that really mean that Big Papi has to put on a first baseman’s glove?
The most games that Ortiz ever played first base in a season was 70… back in 1998, when he still played for the Minnesota Twins. Since 2007, he’s never played more than nine games at first base in a season, which happened to be last year.
However, it’s not like the man has stones for hands. Ortiz has a career fielding percentage of .990 and a 7.73 range factor. In 2011, his range was the best in his career at a 9.00 in 13 innings played. Yet, it must be noted that it was significantly lower in 2015 at 6.22.
Sadly, that last number would still be better than Travis Shaw, who replaced Hanley last night at first, with a 5.87 range factor in 31 games. In fact, if Ortiz could move around as well as he could to earn that career average, he would be just behind Ryan Zimmerman for 23rd place in the majors for all current first basemen.
The only other option would be to put Brock Holt at first base, but it’s highly unlikely. While Andrew Benintendi is now in left field, Holt would be free to bring his .257 batting average to the first base position. Nobody cheering for the Red Sox wants to see that for three straight games. Shaw’s .261 isn’t much better.
Losing Han-Ram’s power hurts the Red Sox, but losing Ortiz’s .313 average hurts even more. Losing both would be a catastrophe. Ortiz has bashed 25 home runs and 87 RBIs so far. Ramirez has six homers and 14 RBIs in the last 15 games, factoring much in terms of the Red Sox run support. Not having either man in the lineup would severely weaken any threat that the lineup would pose to opposing pitchers. Not to mention losing Han-Ram’s .994 fielding percentage and 7.88 range factor at first.
Guess there’s no rest for Big Papi any time soon. Hopefully for Boston, he doesn’t take himself out of his groove at the plate with some form of injury while playing first baseman for a while.
It’s almost unbelievable to say, but the Red Sox desperately need Ramirez to come back soon to play defense. Imagine saying that last season, Red Sox fans!