FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As the Boston Red Sox took the field for the top of the sixth inning Friday, first baseman Hanley Ramirez was conspicuous as the only starting position player who was still in the game.
Punishment for failing to scoop a bounced throw by shortstop Xander Bogaerts a few innings earlier?
Quite the opposite, actually.
According to both Ramirez and manager John Farrell, Ramirez asked if he could play one more inning in order to get an additional at-bat and possibly a few more plays at first base, a position he is learning to play this season.
"You know, he's working at this in a very good way," Farrell said. "There was a couple of things inside that game, there's reminders. On a certain count against a left-handed hitter, we'll have him play behind (the runner). All the nuances of the position. He's looking for those reps and wanted the extra inning here today."
Last season, when the Sox embarked on their spectacularly failed attempt to make Ramirez into a left fielder, the slugger often frustrated team officials with his work ethic at the new position. And given the possibility that Ramirez could take over for retiring David Ortiz as the Sox's designated hitter next season -- "Hell yeah," he said recently when asked if he would eventually like to be a DH -- it's worth wondering if he will be fully committed to becoming a competent first baseman.
Early indications are positive. With two outs and a runner on second in the fourth inning of the Sox's 7-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, Bogaerts made a nice backhand stop of a smash by Tim Beckham but short-hopped the throw. The ball skidded past Ramirez, allowing a run to score.
"His instincts took him a certain way to look to pick that ball, and yet probably when he came in off the field, he knows he needs to go at that with a backhand pick," Farrell said. "You've got more coverage with a backhand pick rather than a forehand. That's all getting the reps needed and just working at getting better every day."