Red Sox: Hanley Ramirez at first base against Philadelphia Phillies
By Sean Penney
Hanley Ramirez will take the field playing first base when the Boston Red Sox travel to a National League Park to face the Philadelphia Phillies.
It seems like only yesterday that the Boston Red Sox weren’t planning on using Hanley Ramirez at first base on their next visit to a National League ballpark.
Wait, that was yesterday. It certainly didn’t take long for those plans to change.
Approximately 24 hours after Red Sox manager John Farrell proclaimed that Ramirez is the team’s DH and won’t play in the two-game series in Philadelphia, tonight’s lineup reveals that Ramirez is in fact playing first base.
Why the sudden change of heart? It turns out that it has nothing to do with a sudden boost in confidence in Ramirez’ fielding ability. It’s merely a lack of options.
Mitch Moreland was expected to take his usual spot at first base but he’s day-to-day after being hit in the toe by a pitch Tuesday night. When he reported swelling the next day it was decided that Moreland needed a least a day off his feet.
Shoulder issues have limited Ramirez almost exclusively to DH duties this season. He attempted to play first base for one game in Milwaukee last month, only to exit early with a right trap muscle spasm. The Red Sox have avoided using Ramirez defensively ever since in an attempt to keep him healthy.
Moreland has played well enough to deserve an everyday spot in the lineup, while providing vastly superior defense. Now that he’s out with an injury of his own, the Red Sox have no choice but to turn to Ramirez.
Across the diamond from Ramirez will be Pablo Sandoval. The much maligned third baseman has started each of the last four games on the bench. He appeared as a pinch-hitter in two of those games, which seemed to be the role the team was shifting him toward.
Now Sandoval has returned to the starting lineup. As with the case for Ramirez, the decision comes due to a lack of options.
The Red Sox optioned infielder Deven Marrero to Pawtucket in order to call up pitcher Hector Velazquez, who will provide depth to a tired bullpen in the wake of two consecutive extra-innings games. That leaves only Josh Rutledge to serve as the backup at each infield position, making it risky to call on a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement for Sandoval late in the game.
With Ramirez and Sandoval on the corners the Red Sox may have the worst defensive infield in baseball. Advanced metrics haven’t been kind in rating the glove of Xander Bogaerts and there’s only so much that Dustin Pedroia can do. Boston’s pitching staff better hope that they pile up strikeouts against the free-swinging Phillies.