Red Sox lineup: Hanley Ramirez playing first base for first time in 2017

Aug 22, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez (13) at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 22, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez (13) at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

For the first time this season, Hanley Ramirez will man first base for the Boston Red Sox instead of his usual designated hitter role.

Who’s on first? Hanley Ramirez, that’s who. With the Boston Red Sox visiting a National League ballpark that takes the designated hitter out of the lineup, Ramirez will grab a glove to field a defensive position for the first time this season.

The Red Sox transitioned Ramirez to first base last season, a year after their experiment testing him in left field ended in disaster. Most defensive metrics rated him below average, although his performance still felt adequate given the low expectations for his glove work.

The retirement of David Ortiz paved the way for Ramirez to claim his vacated DH position, which is where he’s been utilized in all 27 games he’s appeared in this season. It’s no secret that Ramirez had been looking forward to setting his glove aside so that he could focus primarily on hitting, although he has halfheartedly stated that he would occasionally fill in at first base if the team needed him to.

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The plan was initially for Ramirez to play first base against left-handed pitching, with Mitch Moreland taking a seat and lefty-masher Chris Young jumping into the DH spot. That idea was put on hold when Ramirez reported shoulder soreness that prevented him from taking the field during spring training.

While Ramirez has been deemed ready to play first base, there hasn’t been a need to rush him onto the field until a trip to Milwaukee deprived the Red Sox of using a DH.

Moreland has exceeded everyone’s expectations at the plate, leading the league in doubles. The lefty has surprisingly been at his most productive against southpaws, hitting .316 with an .879 OPS against left-handed pitching this season. Moreland has given manager John Farrell no reason to take him out of the lineup, which is why he’s the only Red Sox hitter to appear in all 32 games.

Injuries and a massive slump from Jackie Bradley have combined to afford Young additional playing time, limiting the need to put Ramirez at first base in order to fit Young in the lineup.

With a string of five out of eight games taking place in NL ballparks, putting Ramirez at first base became inevitable. While Ramirez was given the night off on Tuesday, there’s no way Farrell would have benched him for the entire series. Ramirez is obviously a significant downgrade defensively from the Gold Glove winner he’s replacing, but sitting Ramirez for too long would risk getting him out of rhythm at the plate at a time when his bat is starting to heat up.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against the Brewers, which includes Ramirez batting fifth and playing first base in place of Moreland.

Also notice that Bradley is back in center field after riding the pine the last few games, aside from a brief cameo last night. JBJ popped out to shortstop in his only plate appearance when he pinch-hit for reliever Fernando Abad, dropping his average down to .172 for the season. He’s collected only one hit over the last six games he’s appeared in, while racking up five strikeouts in 19 at-bats.

Hopefully a few days off was all Bradley needed to rediscover his swing. Given his streaky nature, he’s always a candidate to catch fire at any time.

The Red Sox lineup could certainly use a lift from the returning Ramirez and Bradley, as they look to provide run support for Kyle Kendrick. The right-hander was shelled in his season debut last week and now faces the fourth highest scoring team in the majors tonight.

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Boston’s offense is humming, with 35 runs scored over the last three games. Let’s see if they can keep it up with a couple of regular starters back in the mix.