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.