When it comes to Hanley Ramirez, his happiness might be more valuable to the Red Sox than playing first base occasionally.
Happiness is a hot bat.
Ramirez on Thursday had a huge eighth inning drive to center that tied the game for the Sox, just before they took a lead in a 4-3 win over the Pirates.
A late-inning, big hit from the clean-up hitter. A come-from-behind win.
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Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
“I had a chance to play with David,” Ramirez said. “And I saw, he never tried to overdo, and he always stayed calm and let the ball come to him.”
Ramirez said after the game he does not actually want to be David Ortiz. Everyone also knows Ramirez actually wants to be David Ortiz.
The Sox’ new designated hitter wants to be a run producer teammates look up to. He wants to fill that role while occupying Ortiz’s old locker.
And he wants to play Ortiz’s old position.
That position is not first base.
So far, the company line on what’s kept Ramirez from playing first base is a bum shoulder. He did some throwing to try to get back into form before he got sick.
Asked Thursday how his throwing’s coming along, Ramirez’s response said it all.
“Why?” Ramirez said. “I just got to hit, man, right now. And I think Mitch (Moreland) is doing a pretty good job. .... It’s coming along good, but my main thing right now, just drive people in.”
The throwing shoulder charade can end now, John Farrell.
Maybe the arm bothers Ramirez, but that’s not the singular issue here, let alone the core issue. (It’s a little like when Pablo Sandoval went for shoulder surgery last year. Something else was going on, you’ll recall.)
Moreland is hitting very well. So well, that he has the Red Sox’ record for consecutive games with a double, seven, and we’re barely two weeks into his Boston career.
Is Ramirez at some point going to move to first base against left-handed pitching, such that Chris Young can get time in the outfield in a fully healthy Sox lineup? It’s not a concern right now, because of Moreland's success and because Jackie Bradley Jr. is hurt, which made room in the outfield.
Come the assumed playoffs, Ramirez better be willing to do whatever he’s asked.
But for now, if Ramirez so has his heart set on DH’ing rather than playing first base, the Sox may be best off appeasing him.
Something tantamount to a refusal to play first base would not — does not? — make Ramirez the best teammate of all time. But he could still be a good teammate in other ways.
Ramirez actually is pretty giddy about the idea of being someone people look to for hitting advice. Someone like Ortiz.
You could hear it in his voice Thursday evening.
“This is going to be (my) 13th year in the big leagues, so I learned a lot through all those years,” Ramirez said. “I just try to pass it out. I got a couple of guys asking me already — I don’t want to throw names out there — ‘What you trying to do against this pitcher? What are we going to try to do today?’
“That’s good. That’s exactly what I did when I was young. Always ask Manny (Ramirez) when I was here, and David, ‘What are you trying to do in this situation, and what are you trying to do against this pitcher?’ So, that’s how you learn.”
The Sox saw what an unhappy Ramirez looked like in 2015. He’s producing right now.
A happy Ramirez may be the best Ramirez.
Let him help the team how he prefers to for now. His bat is good enough for some leeway. At least until the standings or the time of year or the alternatives clearly say otherwise.