BOSTON — Hanley Ramirez is the greatest mystery on the Red Sox, this side of Tyler Thornburg. The next time the Red Sox give a straight answer about Ramirez’s shoulders will be the first.
The underperforming Ramirez, though, isn’t the roster’s greatest problem right now. That’s Pablo Sandoval, whose situation is clear: he’s not helpful right now. There’s little chance he looks better unless he plays.
He’s not playing.
The third baseman looks poor in the field, and the hitting ability he’s supposed to have vs. right-handed pitching hasn’t appeared. It could, eventually, resurface, which is why it probably makes more sense to find a way to stash him on the disabled list rather than simply cut him. You’d have to take the salary hit either way.
Cutting him would serve as some sort of spiritual cleansing. But symbolism isn’t really what the Red Sox need.
It doesn’t make the most business sense to let the Panda wander free, either, unless Sandoval would stand in the way of a trip to the DL. (Another club would probably take a flier on him at the major league minimum, so, Sandoval might actually be wise to stand in the way of a DL trip, so that he can get an opportunity elsewhere.)
Something, however, has to give.
What the Red Sox are doing right now — pretending Sandoval serves some sort of purpose on the roster in an in-between role at present — feels inane for a team that should prioritize carrying its best lineup and bench.
“[Sandoval] wants to be on the field. There’s no question about that,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “He’s in a little bit of a tough stretch here. We recognize that. The lineup has reflected that. He’s one of us, and we’ve got to continue to work to gain some consistency on both ends of the ball.
“We’re in a stretch where we’re going to have probably five consecutive – possibly more – right-handed starters. He’ll be on the field. It’s obviously not tonight at the beginning of this game, but we’ve got to keep him in the mix as we do with everybody on the roster, and keep him fresh enough where we can get contributions on either side. He’ll be on the field.”
This isn’t spring training. It should not be treated as such. Roster spots need to be optimized.
To that end, Ramirez isn’t exactly flexible.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the Red Sox return to National League play, with a pair of games in Philadelphia against right-handed pitchers. Because the left-handed Mitch Moreland is doing so well, they don’t need Ramirez to play first base — even though Farrell hasn't closed the door on that possibility this week. Add in the fact a righty’s on the mound, it just wouldn’t make sense.
But what exactly is going on with Ramirez’s shoulders?
“He’s had one repaired in the past. So it’s just not just the throwing shoulder,” Farrell said Monday. “The left one has had some work done previously. So, what I don’t know specifically from Hanley is if it ebbs and flows or if it’s just a constant nagging situation. I do know this: when a heavy volume of throwing takes place, the soreness, then he feels like it begins to affect his swing.”
Ramirez hasn’t had a heavy volume of throwing this year. He did last year, comparatively, and still hit very well.
Farrell will probably regret saying he’s unsure if it’s a nagging situation, because managers are expected to know such things. The skipper didn’t give much of an explanation when asked if the shoulders are affecting Ramirez at the plate.
“I can’t say that it’s not affecting him,” Farrell said. “To what extent, I don’t know that.”
Farrell said he did know, however, that a short trip to the disabled list would not significantly improve Ramirez.
So to be clear, little is clear.