CLEVELAND -- David Dombrowski suspects Hanley Ramirez decided it would be a good idea last winter, since he was moving to the outfield, to show up in Red Sox camp as a bulked-up version of himself, all the better to display the power he believed should come with the position.
In doing so, however, Ramirez robbed himself of much of his athleticism, which made the move to the outfield painful to watch. In the view of the Red Sox, the added bulk also made him susceptible to injury, which is why, interim manager Torey Lovullo said Sunday, the Sox sent Ramirez home last week with a mandate: Drop 15 to 20 pounds.
Ramirez actually looked like he was on to something in April when he slugged a team-leading 10 home runs. But he never looked comfortable in the outfield, often appearing slow and ponderous, and then the injuries came, the most aggravating being the strained left shoulder he sustained running into the side wall in Fenway’s left field in early May. Ramirez has had that shoulder surgically repaired twice before, and while he tried to play through the injury -- “There’s no wasting time on the bench,” he said -- his production dropped off dramatically.
Then, late in August, he revealed he also had hurt his right shoulder, apparently while making a throw, and after going days predicting Ramirez was within a day or two of returning, the Sox placed him on the disabled list early in September (retroactive to Aug. 27), and he didn’t play again the rest of the season.
Now, there is another position change in the talking stages -- a shift to first base. Ramirez did a little work there in the season’s last month, but while he was able to continue taking batting practice, the club shut down the crash course at first being administered by infield coach Brian Butterfield.
“The one unknown is Hanley because he hasn’t played first base before,’’ Lovullo said. “We all feel like he can do it. If he gets healthy, he can do it. He’s a former infielder with good actions, he understands how to square up to a ball, how to get his feet set up and throw the ball. He’s got all those necessary actions. He was a really good shortstop for a lot of years.
“But we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen from a health standpoint, but I feel comfortable he could be just fine there.’’
Describing Ramirez as a health risk, of course, is not going to make it any easier for the Red Sox to trade him, something they clearly would love to do. Lovullo then addressed the question of Ramirez’s size.
“It has been discussed,’’ Lovullo said. “It was outlined in his exit physical that he come in at a certain weight. That’s our expectation. I don’t have the paperwork in front of me, but I think it was 15 or 20 pounds lighter that was asked of him.’’
The benefit of the weight loss? “Stay healthy, less stress on the body, all from a health standpoint, all for getting through a season and not having those aches and pains that a big body has,’’ Lovullo said. “We all know that when you carry extra weight, it puts more stress on your joints. I think that’s the main reason why.’’
Lovullo also said Ramirez would gain additional agility if he lost weight.
“I just want to make sure, we’re not picking on Hanley as an organization,’’ he said. “These are all very, very common conversations we have with guys.’’
Oh, yes. The Sox have asked Pablo Sandoval to lose weight, too. Lovullo couldn’t recall the exact number of pounds.