Red Sox

McAdam: Ramirez' lack of pop has flattened Red Sox attack


McAdam: Ramirez' lack of pop has flattened Red Sox attack

BOSTON -- When Hanley Ramirez hit a three-run homer against Baltimore last week, he vowed it was merely a preview of coming attractions.

“Yep, get ready, get your ticket -- first class, coach, whatever -- it’s about to get hot,” Ramirez said.

Not exactly.

Instead of takeoff, Ramirez has been grounded on the tarmac for the past week, idling like the rest of the Red Sox' punchless lineup.

Since the homer, Ramirez is 4-for-24 in the last six games, with just one extra-base hit. If Ramirez felt he found something in that game with the Orioles, he has since lost it again.

Hot? It's not even mild on Planet Hanley. In fact, it's decidedly chilly.

And it's not limited to the last week. Over the last 20 games, Ramirez sports a slash line of .173/.267/.253. He has exactly one (1) homer in the last month.

Ramirez had two chances to make an impact in Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox and failed both times.

In the third inning, he came to the plate with Chris Sale experiencing his first bit of difficulty. The bases were loaded, but Sale got Ramirez on consecutve sliders to end the threat.

It was more of the same with a different White Sox pitcher in the eighth. Reliever Nate Jones caught Ramirez looking at a slider for a called third stirke. Two more runners were left stranded.

"Can't happen, can't happen,'' said Ramirez in looking back at his two key plate appearances, recounting pitches that either he didn't offer at or missed entirely.

But it happen.

On a night like Tuesday, Ramirez's failings were magnified because the Red Sox gave David Ortiz the night off. That left Ramirez as the team's cleanup hitter, a bit of a look into the future to 2017, when Ortiz will have retired.

If this -- a paltry .377 slugging percent for the season and just five homers as the season approaches the halfway point -- is what the Red Sox have to look forward to, they'd best cover their eyes.

For the past month, Ramirez has been an absolute mess at the plate, constantly tinkering with his stance and approach at the plate. Sometimes he features a leg kick and sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he fashions an open stance and sometimes he doesn't.

And sometimes Ramirez makes adjustments within the same plate appearance. In the batter's box, he's become something of a contortionist, twisting his body this way and that, but seldom achieving the desired results.

The irony, of course, is that everyone was worrried about Ramirez's attitude and defense this season -- for good reason. Last year, his first with the Sox after signing a four-year, $88 million deal, Ramirez bumbled around in the outfield and seemed indifferent to his poor performance.

This season, Ramirez has played fairly well at first base, committing just two errors, and his hustle on the bases has been eye-opening.

But the power has been mysteriously sapped from his game. All of a sudden, Ramirez has morphed into a J.T. Snow -- a slick-fielding, singles-hitting first baseman.

That's not what the Red Sox paid for, or, for that matter, need.

Ramirez's lack of impact at the plate makes Ortiz's season all the more amazing, given that Oritz has had little protection behind him in the lineup. Ortiz has thrived despite Ramirez posing little threat behind him.

If there's a positive to his struggles, it's that Ramirez cares and wants to find a solution.

Asked what he could do to overcome a disappointing night like Tuesday, Ramirez didn't bat an eye: "Go home now and watch video and come back tomorrow, early, and go to the cage and work because (at-bats like Tuesday) can't happen.''

Ramirez's attitude is fine. But his output is lacking at a time when a slumping lineup sorely needs more.

Strong Grapefruit League debut for Price

Strong Grapefruit League debut for Price

David Price's Grapefruit League debut was nearly perfect.

The Red Sox left-hander pitched four scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and striking out five in a 7-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in Fort Myers, Fla.

Price threw 55 pitches, 34 for strikes. He cruised through the first on nine pitches. He allowed the single and walk in the second.  

"It feels good. This is March 15 and I've never been able to have a four-pitch mix on March 15," Price told reporters after his start. "I've never been this far along in spring training even though I've only thrown in one game. I'm excited about that."

The Red Sox open March 29 at Tampa Bay, with Chris Sale likely to start. Price will likely pitch the second game of the season, March 30 at Tropicana Field.