By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — David Ortiz has been a mentor to Hanley Ramirez for a long time, and especially so in Ramirez’s last two seasons when the two were with the Red Sox. Now that Ortiz is definitely, totally, completely retired, it’s up to Ramirez to take the reins at designated hitter.
Speaking to reporters at the start of Red Sox spring training in Fort Myers, Ramirez was asked what Ortiz may have told him about what it’s like to be a designated hitter. He was hesitant to respond – “You really want to know what he told me?” he asked back – but his comments and hesitation to make them suggest that he’s well aware of the common perception of him as something of a headcase over the course of his career.
“[Ortiz told me] ‘Someday you’re going to go crazy,'” said Ramirez. “Because the only thing you can do [as a DH] is hit, and when things are not going good, what else can you do?”
So how does he plan to combat the frustration that may come with a hitting slump in the DH spot?
“Just go out there and try not to think about it until your next at-bat,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez has been a lightning rod for controversy throughout his career as it relates to his focus and maturity level when he’s on the field. It’s clear that Ortiz’s tutelage has given him a renewed dedication to emulating Ortiz’s role as a leader and consistency at the plate.
He’s also still a little salty about the Red Sox’s early playoff exit, which is giving him some added motivation to carry his individual success from 2016 over to 2017.
“What we did last year was really, really nice, but we didn’t get the job done. We’re here to win championships,” said Ramirez. “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.
“[Ortiz] left everything here, we’re just going to keep grinding. Everybody knows that David was a winner, a great teammate who kept everybody together and we’re gonna do the same thing [in 2017].”
Ramirez was also asked about his role as a first baseman, which will be greatly reduced but still a factor in 2017. He surprised a lot of people with his strong fielding in his first season at the position, despite a bizarre glove mishap to start the season. Ramirez still plans to take plenty of grounders and “be ready for every game,” because he could suddenly become the full-time first baseman again at any moment.
Like he did in 2016, Ramirez looks to put together another full season of good health and strong production. It will be a bigger challenge to do it without Ortiz’s presence keeping everything together, but Ramirez appears to have learned a great deal from Ortiz’s guidance in the past two years.
“In this game, you never stop learning. You learn something new every day,” said Ramirez. “I will continue to do that and keep working, keep working in the cage, and try to stay consistent the whole year.”
Of course, talk is cheap. Ramirez did a lot of talking last season too, but unlike most seasons in his career, he mostly backed it up. He’s off to a great start in terms of saying all the right things; it’s up to him to do the right things again.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.