Red Sox

Hanley wants to play '10 more years'; E-Rod pleased with surgery

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Hanley wants to play '10 more years'; E-Rod pleased with surgery

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — In absence of any actual changes to the Red Sox, there has been a lot of talk of potential internal improvements, many of which are reasonable to expect. Health issues contributed to drop-offs left and right.

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Among the players who went for surgery this offseason were Hanley Ramirez and Eduardo Rodriguez, two players at very different points in their careers but with one shared thread: there's optimism for both after they were operated on by Dr. James Andrews to start their offseason.

Ramirez, 34, had a left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement, Rodriguez a right knee patellofemoral ligament reconstruction. For Rodriguez, the surgery was done to stabilize a knee that kept suffering subluxations. 

Ramirez’s confidence hasn’t waned.

Among the proclamations he offered Saturday morning at Foxwoods, where the Red Sox are holding Winter Weekend (and where Ramirez referred to himself as “Miami Hanley”): 

• On his 2019 vesting option, based on plate appearances this season (he needs just shy of 500): “I'm not thinking about the 500 at-bats. Definitely, I want to stay here. This is the team that signed me when I was 16. The first thing we have to do is just win and see what happens after.”

• On the possibility the Red Sox add J.D. Martinez: “I know I can hit and I’m gonna hit, it’s not gonna affect me. You just got to be a good teammate and be ready to go wherever they need you to.”

• On how much longer he wants to play: "Maybe 10 more years.” A reporter expressed disbelief. ”Oh, I'm kidding? 40, 43. Only myself knows how I feel. After surgery, my mind, my body, everything just relaxed. I feel different now.”

• As a follow-up, Ramirez was asked if his interest in playing so long would make him the Dominican Ichiro. “I'm going to be Miami Hanley doing damage on the field.”

Ramirez was bothered by both his shoulders in his 2017. He didn’t play first base because his right shoulder on his throwing arm was bothersome too. He did not have that throwing shoulder operated on, however. 

“We got the left shoulder take care of it. It’s strong and definitely way better,” Ramirez said. “The other was one weak. I just got to strength — that’s what we did, this past, what two, three months and it feels good. And the left one is way better. And then I’m going to be what I want to be.”

Ramirez said he’s already started to throw long toss, compared to a year ago, when he had not yet thrown. It was never clear how to Ramirez exactly what caused his throwing shoulder to be so bothersome, but he wanted to start throwing early this offseason.

More first base is a possibility, as he sees it.

“And I would [play more]. And I would,” Ramirez said. “Right shoulder’s feeling good. I’ve been throwing, hitting, so everything’s ready to go. Should be ready to go from the first day, from Day 1. Throwing, I’ve been throwing long toss.”

Rodriguez, meanwhile, has not thrown off a mound or run yet, but it sounds like the mental strain of always worrying about his knee has been lessened. 

Likely, he won’t really know until he’s throwing off a mound again.

“They just did a surgery. I just feel way better now,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like my kneecap isn’t going pop out anymore. That’s a good thing because I feel comfortable now. 

“You’ll see, bro. It happened like three times already. I was trying to fight to pitch with a knee like that. And I did it. Sometimes downs and up. Now, I’m down just fine. I got my surgery. Now it’s time to get back to the guy I was before I got the surgery.”

Rodriguez isn't expected to be ready for Opening Day, but some time in late April or early May appears reasonable.


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BEST OF BST PODCAST: David Price recruited J.D. Martinez to Boston?

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: David Price recruited J.D. Martinez to Boston?

0:41 - Jared Carrabis joins BST to discuss David Price’s recruitment of J.D. Martinez and his comments about what it is like to play in Boston.

6:02 - Tom Curran, Phil Perry, and Tom Giles talk about where the Patriots stand with their wide receivers and if it is a position that should be addressed sooner rather than later.

10:59 - In this segment of NBA Crystal Ball, Chris Forsberg, DJ Bean, and Tom Giles predict what seed the Celtics finish with and which team will send Boston packing this season.

14:25 - Lou Merloni and Evan Drellich discuss the quotes from David Price on the negativity in Boston, what kind of success Price will have this season, and the signing of J.D. Martinez.

Drellich: It's the bench where Martinez creates roster dilemma

Drellich: It's the bench where Martinez creates roster dilemma

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Now that J.D. Martinez is about to join the fold, the Red Sox have some roster intrigue. But it's not at first base with Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez. It sits on the infield with Brock Holt, Blake Swihart and Deven Marrero.

The ideal Red Sox lineup right now — or at least, the version we think we will see when Martinez is officially inked — has Moreland sitting out more often. Still, remember that we are talking about an ideal. Someone will get hurt. Multiple players, in fact. And even if everyone is healthy, we're in an era where teams prioritize depth and keeping players fresh.

"We've got guys that can play the infield and can play the outfield,” manager Alex Cora said Tuesday. "I'm comfortable with that. I'm comfortable with a roster that's very versatile. That's very important. Guys that can complement each other. I've been talking about rest the whole week. It's very important with the travel and schedule and workload, it's very important to have versatile players on your roster.”

In Martinez, Moreland, and Ramirez, there'll be three players on a daily basis for two spots: first base and designated hitter. Martinez just received a $110 million contract to start, likely at DH. So that leaves Ramirez and Moreland to share time at first.

Ramirez has the leg up. He has the bigger bat and the bigger salary. Plus, Cora on Tuesday said he looks at Ramirez as his No. 3 hitter. It would be odd for Cora to declare as much and then put Ramirez in, say, a platoon with the left-handed hitting Moreland once Martinez is officially signed.

“As of now?” Cora said Tuesday. “Hanley Ramirez.”

With that in mind, here’s a quick review (and projection) of the other starting roles:

C: Christian Vazquez
1B: Hanley Ramirez
2B: Eduardo Nunez
SS: Xander Bogaerts
3B: Rafael Devers
LF: Andrew Benintendi
CF: Jackie Bradley Jr.
RF: Mookie Betts
DH: J.D. Martinez 

Make no mistake, Martinez’s arrival will have ripple effects. The Sox traded outfielder Bryce Brentz to the Pirates for cash, clearing a 40-man spot for Martinez, whenever his deal becomes official. (It shouldn’t be long, barring any problems with a physical.) Brentz, a depth right-handed hitting outfielder with pop, was one of a few players the Sox have in camp out of options.

Moreland may well lose some at-bats with Martinez in the fold. Ramirez might too. Unless Ramirez mashes, the Sox will have reason to limit his playing time. At 497 plate appearances, a vesting option kicks in for 2019.

“I was supposed to be in a platoon role last year, split time last year, and I played more than I ever have in my career,” Moreland said Tuesday. “A lot of things can happen. He's a great guy. He's going to be a great addition for us, and looking forward to welcoming him with open arms and watching him help us win.”

Moreland's going to get his crack again this year, you can bet on it. And he also may need some down time himself.

Moreland, 32, had a fractured toe in 2017. His 149 games played were nonetheless a career high. Jackie Bradley Jr. was slowed by injuries last season, as was Mookie Betts, as was Hanley Ramirez, as was even Martinez. 

All it takes is one. An injury in the outfield, for example, could give Martinez more time in left field, in turn opening up the DH spot, in turn opening up more time at first base for Moreland.

Martinez had a sprained right foot to start the 2017 season and played in 119 regular-season games. He had an injury when he first got to Arizona as well (because he was hit by a pitch). He also had a fractured elbow in 2016, when he played 120 games.

People wonder too, well, what happens when Dustin Pedroia comes back? Where does Nunez play? It’s the same principle. Pedroia’s coming off major knee surgery. Nunez is coming off a knee injury of his own. Neither of these guys would do well to be in the lineup every day.

So, what is the real roster intrigue to open the season? If everyone is healthy on Opening Day — and that's also a big if — the bench is tricky.

Assuming the Sox carry 13 position players and that Sandy Leon remains the backup catcher, they'll have to choose two from these three: Brock Holt, who has experience and a $2.2 million salary but also has minor-league options; Deven Marrero, who's the surest defender they have; and Blake Swihart, who's not well versed on the infield but has upside as an athlete and at the plate. Swihart and Marrero do not have options.

Holt, who turns 30 in June, by virtue of his salary, has to be considered a favorite to stick around. At the same time, he's the only one the Sox could freely stash in the minors. Swihart and Marrero have upside that makes them appealing not only to the Sox, but to other teams as well.

Demote Holt? Trade one of Swihart or Marrero? Figure someone's hurt to begin Opening Day?

(Swihart conceivably could be carried as a second catcher, but it'd be hard to see the Sox parting with Leon, whose receiving is so well liked.)

Here's a fuller visual for you:

CATCHERS 
1. Christian Vazquez
2. Sandy Leon

INFIELDERS
3. Mitch Moreland
4. Eduardo Nunez
5. Xander Bogaerts
6. Rafael Devers
7. Hanley Ramirez

OUTFIELDERS
8. Jackie Bradley
9. Andrew Benintendi
10. Mookie Betts
11. J.D. Martinez

BENCH
12. Brock Holt?
13. Deven Marrero?
14. Blake Swihart?

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