Alexei Ramirez has proven to be an outstanding defender since the White Sox moved him to shortstop full-time in 2009.
But this spring training, the White Sox helped him improve with a minor adjustment in his pre-pitch setup. As the team heads in its 99th game against the Texas Rangers on Friday night, Ramirez is on pace to commit a career-low 12 errors this season.
Those figures have some in the White Sox clubhouse of the belief Ramirez -- who is on pace to make the same amount of plays as last season with an improved fielding percentage -- could win his first Gold Glove this season, if he hits enough.
He has great hands, said infielder and two-time Gold Glove winner Orlando Hudson. He has great feet. He has great range and he takes good angles at different balls in the hole. Hes smooth. I like watching him play. Hes one of the best in the game. I hope he gets the Gold Glove this year. In my eyes it is (enough), but the guys who vote say youve gotta hit.
Ramirez is hitting .268 with three homers and 46 RBIs, which ranks second among American League shortstops.
Hes even better with the glove.
Back in February, the White Sox coaching staff noticed Ramirez would stand still prior to every pitch. They believed a tiny movement before each pitch would aid their already superb defender so they filmed his actions and sat him down to watch.
He adjusted to it right away, third-base coach Joe McEwing said. Theres some guys that stand still and waggle with the pitch. But if you have some movement, now youre able to adjust quicker. Youre able to get better jumps at balls off the bat. It has helped in going side-to-side more. He has plus range and a plus arm. So if hes able to get more balls thats better for everybody.
Ramirez said through a translator the added movement has helped him to further refine a position he has only played for four seasons.
I would definitely say it has helped me a lot, Ramirez said. I have a quicker reaction now toward the ball once its hit. Its keeping me agile. Even though I did not play the position (before 2009), I practiced it, so I felt comfortable. I feel like Im learning things on a daily basis. My confidence gets up more because I watch video and pick up things I can improve on.
Ramirez has also shown he feels comfortable at the plate recently. Over his last 34 games, Ramirez has raised his batting average 53 points. He has 17 multi-hit games in that span and has given manager Robin Ventura the confidence to hit him sixth in the absence of catcher A.J. Pierzynski the previous two games.
But will those totals be enough for Rawlings to contact Ramirez this offseason?
Its a shame that, at times, the Gold Glove is a hitting award, McEwing said. We think hes one of the best shortstops in the game. Every year, other shortstops getting mentioned and he doesnt, which is a shame because hes a talented kid.