Posted on February 16, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
The young core of players that will likely lead the Boston Red Sox for many years to come is firmly in place. However, there is one notable absence as the team begins spring training, and that is the now retired David Ortiz, who leaves an enormous hole on the team’s roster. But Red Sox fans need not fear; Hanley Ramirez has already proclaimed himself ready to fill Ortiz’s shoes in 2017.
Appropriately enough, Ramirez showed up to spring training Thursday morning wearing a shirt with Ortiz’s no. 34 on the back. It was a not-so-subtle fashion statement providing the perfect symmetry for the situation in which Ramirez finds himself; he is the one who will be relied upon to fill the DH role that Ortiz filled in Boston for so many years.
Manager John Farrell has already indicated what so many were assuming all along, which is that Ramirez will be the Red Sox DH against right-handed starters. The door is open for Ramirez to see action at first base if the newly-signed Mitch Moreland sits against lefties, allowing Chris Young and some of the team’s other bench players to get at bats as the DH. However, for all intents and purposes, Ramirez will be Boston’s primary DH this season, and he says he’s ready for that role.
After a sluggish first season in Boston in 2015, Ramirez bounced back in a big way last year. He hit .286 with 30 home runs and 28 doubles in 2016, helping him to post an OPS of .866. Those numbers don’t quite measure up to the 38 home runs, 48 doubles, and 1.021 OPS Big Papi put up last season, but it’s a good place to start. Ramirez knows he may not be able to measure up to Ortiz, but he’s going to give it his best shot.
“I can’t jump that high,” Ramirez said, comparing himself to Ortiz. “The good thing is that I’m going to try, though. If you want to follow somebody, that’s the guy, what he’s been able to do, just on the field with his teammates, around the city, everywhere he goes. You want to keep that rolling.”
Ramirez also knows something that some are still struggling to accept: Ortiz is not coming out of retirement to help the Red Sox. “I don’t think it’s going to happen, so you’ve got to deal with that. David’s not coming back,” Ramirez said. “He’s home with his family, all right? All right? You got that, Sox Nation? We’re going to have to do it.”
If it’s any consolation, the two remain close and Ortiz has tried to pass along advice to Ramirez on how to function as a full-time DH.
“He told me that someday, you’re going to get crazy because all you can do is hit, and when things are not going good, what can you do?” explained Ramirez. “You just go out there and try not to think about it until your next at-bat. Honestly, he told me at first it’s going to be a little hard, because when you can play defense, you can help the team in two ways. But DH, it’s pretty much just offense, but I’ve just got to find a way to separate between those at-bats and cheer from the dugout.”
Perhaps most importantly for Red Sox fans, Ramirez says that even without Ortiz, expectations haven’t changed and that the team still has its sights set on a championship.
“We went to the first round last year, and that wasn’t enough. We need to get the job done,” Ramirez said. “We’re here to win championships and we still have that bad taste in our throat. This year we’re going to go harder even more. Because we want to get the job done.”