<
>

Hanley Ramirez, switching to first base, reports early to Red Sox camp

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Hanley Ramirez is in the house, and his message is resounding: Bury the past and embrace the present.

Ramirez reported to the Boston Red Sox's training facility at Fenway South on Wednesday morning, six days ahead of the deadline for position players, although most of the players are already here.

He looked leaner -- he said his weight is "a couple pounds" down from last year -- and was in a playful mood during and after his 77-minute workout.

Asked if his switch from outfield to first base is just a one-and-done thing, after which he would take over at designated hitter for the retiring David Ortiz, he quipped, "What if I win a Gold Glove? What is going to happen next year? It's too far [away]. I don't make those decisions. I have a boss."

Wait a second. The goal is to win the Gold Glove?

"Definitely," Ramirez said. "It would be nice, you know ... for you guys. We're going to work a lot. I just want to make my infielders comfortable. Catch the ball and throw it. That's the main key right now. I told Bogey [shortstop Xander Bogaerts] right away, 'Just throw the ball in this area and you'll be fine. Don't worry, I got you.' Pedey [second baseman Dustin Pedroia], he don't make bad throws. 'I'm always going to hit you in the chest.' "

Last year's experiment blew up in the face of the Red Sox and Ramirez, the 32-year-old former All-Star who signed a four-year, $88 million contract a year ago.

With Bogaerts at short, the Red Sox moved Ramirez to left field and were convinced that he'd be fine. Instead, advanced metrics showed he was the worst defensive player in baseball, and allowed 19 runs to score.

Ramirez suffered a shoulder injury and was shut down in early September, finishing with a .249/.291/.426/.717 slash line, and was the subject of trade rumors in November.

But all that is in the past.

"We didn't go to the playoffs," he said. The Red Sox finished last in the AL East, their third last-place finish in four years. "Like I always say, it's not one person. We stay together, the whole team. The whole team.

"We got better in the bullpen. We got an ace, like you guys call it. [David] Price, he's a fighter. He's a competitor. He's unbelievable."

Ramirez worked out at first base on Field One for about 10 minutes, using a two-tone Wilson glove given to him by former Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli. It'll be in his hand until a new one arrives during spring training.

He said he's been working with Red Sox executive Laz Gutierrez five days a week in Miami for the past five to six weeks.

He acknowledges switching to first base will be a "big" challenge, but said he's looking forward to working with infield coach Brian Butterfield, whose work with Napoli produced profound results.

"I know that area in the infield," he said. "It's different. Like I say, I'm really happy to be back in the infield. It's been a while that I've taken ground balls in a real game, and I'm really excited."

In the offseason, new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski ordered Ramirez to shed 15 to 20 pounds, feeling that his reported weight of 240 had robbed him of athleticism and agility, and increased his risk of injury.

Ramirez started out last season on fire, hammering 10 home runs in April. But he appeared slow and awkward in left field, never finding a comfort zone. He suffered a strained left shoulder when he ran into the side wall at Fenway Park in May, and after that, his production dropped off significantly.

Ramirez said he altered his diet, and although he may not have lost 15 pounds, he says it's because he has more muscle.

"I feel really good," he said. "Like I say, more athletic.

"Everything is in the past now. My whole body, my upper body, my lower body, core, we took care of everything. My shoulder got better. That top hand that I couldn't use last year -- that's stronger. We have a pretty good plan. Everything went into the preparation, and I feel it right now.

"I don't like to talk about myself, but if I stay on the field the whole season, 150-plus games, good things can happen."

Rick Weber is a freelance writer for ESPN.com.