Red Sox slugger Hanley Ramirez, fresh off a disappointing season that has prompted a move to first base,will play winter ball with the Licey Tigers in his native Dominican, he told ESPN Deportes.
The Red Sox initially didn’t plan for Ramirez to play this winter, because they wanted him to focus on conditioning and slimming down from the 245 pounds he attempted to play at last year. But Ramirez told Enrique Rojas of ESPN that he plans to get a jump on things, playing some first base, but mostly serving as Licey’s designated hitter.
“People don’t know this, but I will be playing in the Dominican Republic in the coming weeks,” Ramirez said in Spanish. “This is what I’m preparing for. I think it’s something that will help prepare me better to play first base.”
Ramirez added that he has been working out for two weeks and will arrive in Licey next week to begin training with the team.
It’s unclear how many at-bats he’ll receive or how often he’ll play first base, but Ramirez noted that the last time he played in the Dominican, before the 2013 season, he ended up winning the World Baseball Classic and having an excellent season with the Dodgers, hitting .345 with 20 homers and finishing eighth in the NL MVP voting.
“I will play first base,” Ramirez said, “but the majority of the time, I will be designated hitter with Licey.”
Ramirez is still owed $66 million over the final three years of the four-year, $88 million contract he signed at this time last winter. The Red Sox would surely love to move him, but finding a taker could be next to impossible, which makes Ramirez’s move to first all the more important. If he succeeds, he’d then be a natural replacement at designated hitter for David Ortiz in 2017.