Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez has been dealing with shoulder soreness when throwing, which could determine how he’s used in the WBC.
Another spring training comes with another reason for the Boston Red Sox to be concerned about the status of Hanley Ramirez‘ shoulder.
Ramirez’ disastrous first season back in Boston was derailed when he crashed into the left field wall at Fenway Park, injuring the same shoulder he had surgically repaired in 2011. He opted for rehab rather than going under the knife again, but was still feeling some lingering soreness when he arrived in camp last spring.
This spring is accompanied by a feeling of Déjà vu, as Manager John Farrell revealed on Monday that Ramirez has been dealing with shoulder soreness when throwing.
"“We’re working through ramping up his throwing program,” Farrell told reporters, per MassLive’s Jen McCaffrey. “That has taken a little bit more time than anticipated coming in so we’ve got to kind of take that day to day how much we can increase the intensity with the throwing.”"
Shoulder issues didn’t seem to hinder Ramirez’ performance last year, as he produced one of his best seasons in years by blasting 30 home runs and driving 111 RBI.
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Farrell indicated that the soreness doesn’t effect Ramirez’ swing, so that’s good news considering he’s expected to see the bulk of his playing time this season as the designated hitter. If the issue extends into the regular season then it could alter the team’s plans to have Ramirez play first base against left-handed pitchers, but it doesn’t appear to be a long-term concern at this point.
What is concerning is that Ramirez’ throwing program will be interrupted when he leaves to join the Dominican Republic team for the World Baseball Classic on Friday. The 33-year old still intends to represent his native country in the tournament, but realizes it’s not his call. He will speak to Farrell this week about his participation, but the Red Sox would be wise to at least prohibit Ramirez from playing first base, at least until the soreness subsides.
Assuming Ramirez does leave camp to participate in the WBC, he’ll no longer be under the watchful eyes of the Red Sox training staff during his absence. Even if Ramirez is relegated to DH duty to prevent further damage to his ailing shoulder, the team will still have little control over how much time he spends ramping up his throwing. That would seem to increase the chances of a potential setback that could leave him unprepared to field his position when the regular season begins.
Considering how eager Ramirez is to take on his new role as the primary DH, he probably isn’t too worried about his throwing arm. However, if he’s not ready to fill in occasionally at first base then it could effect others on the roster. It may force Farrell to leave Mitch Moreland in the lineup against lefties, against whom he’s historically struggled against despite last year’s reverse splits. It also blocks a path for lefty-masher Chris Young to fit into the lineup.
It’s a promising sign that the Red Sox aren’t concerned enough about Ramirez’ shoulder to send him for an MRI, so let’s not hit the panic button yet. His departure for the WBC comes at an inopportune time and his status will need to be monitored upon his return, but at this point there’s little reason to believe that his availability for Opening Day is in doubt.