FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When talking about his feelings towards his friend and mentor David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez used a line that could have been ripped from any Rachel McAdams or Julia Roberts big screen romance.
"He's my everything," cooed Ramirez.
Ramirez arrived in Fort Myers today looking fit and sporting long, brownish orange dreadlocks. He worked out for a bit in the cage after fielding questions from reporters for nearly 20 minutes, the majority of which focused on his relationship with the currently "retired" Big Papi.
"I talk to him every day, every day. He's the same guy, always joking around," said Ramirez of Ortiz. "But that's the good thing about him, he's always happy and he makes everybody happy."
And when you talk to David, does he ever discuss the possibility of coming out of "retirement" and rejoining the Red Sox?
"Don't know if I'm supposed to say this, but he told me the other night that," Ramirez said.
Then he looked into the bank of TV cameras to address Ortiz directly.
"David, I'm sorry man but I got to do it," Ramirez said. "If he tried to come back, I'm one of the reasons he might come back."
Might come back? So you're saying there's a chance?
"He would tell me around this time every year that his body would start hurting, but not this year," said Ramirez. "So I don't think it's going to happen."
But are you sure, Hanley?
"David's not coming back!" Ramirez shouted into the cameras. "He's home with his family. You got that, Sox Nation? We're going to have to do it."
So based on all this, is it possible Papi returns at some point this season? It seems like Hanley left the door open just a crack. Read from it what you will.
But the fact remains Ortiz is not here now, leaving questions about who will replace his presence and/or if it can be replaced both in terms of leadership and personality. After watching and listening to Ramirez talk today, I'd say the clubhouse leader is him.
"I don't know what to say because it not easy," Ramirez said. "The only thing I can say is, I'm going to really try 1,000 percent to follow that lead and try to do even half-a-percent, not even one percent of what he did in that organization."
Ramirez has personality, but it's not always on display -- at least not with the media. Today it was out in full force. He was open, honest, introspective, funny, engaging. At least for the day, it appeared like he actually was having fun.
To put it another way, Hanley looked, talked and acted every bit like Ortiz.
"[Ortiz] wants me so bad to be a leader and to be what he was in the clubhouse." Ramirez said. "So many things he wants me to be, and how to deal with you guys too. We'll see what happens. Difference is he can talk. I don't like to talk a lot. David's always finding way to get to know you, to talk to you. I learned that from him and that's one of the things I'm going to try to do to."
Ramirez also figures to slide into Ortiz's customary DH role. John Farrell confirmed he'll DH there against all righties, which could turn out to be 100-plus games.
The transition from playing in the field full time to DH is something Hanley seems to want to do but in their many conversations this offseason Ortiz warned him, it's as easy as you'd think.
"Someday you're going to get crazy, because all you can do is hit," said Ramirez. "And when things aren't going well, what else you can do? You just go there and try no to think about it until your next at bat."
And on the very small chance Ortiz does return and reclaims his DH spot, what then for Hanley?
"Yeah if he wants to come back right. And then I'll go back to left field," Ramirez joked and drew a loud laugh from the gathered crowd.
Another season of Hanley's misadventures in left for the return of David Ortiz?
I guess Sox fans could live with that.