Ramirez vows better play ... again

CHICAGO – After starting the season with high hopes, Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez finds himself struggling in the field with an American League-leading 12 errors and not meeting expectations he had for himself at the plate.

Ramirez’s most high profile miscue came in the eighth inning Sunday when his inability to field a bouncing ball to his right allowed two runs to score and gave the Kansas City Royals a 7-6 victory. After the game he declined to talk.

“It has been difficult for me,” Ramirez said Tuesday through an interpreter. “When you lose a game, more importantly than anything else, it’s hard on me.”

There were high expectations for Ramirez when he signed a four-year, $32.5 million extension during the spring of 2011, but he seems to have plateaued since then. In fact, he never has been able to improve on the raw numbers of his rookie season in 2008 when he batted .290 with 22 home runs and 77 RBIs.

Heading into play Tuesday against the New York Mets, Ramirez was batting .277 with one home run and 14 RBIs.

“I feel like 2007,” Ramirez said, way back at SoxFest in January. “I feel like I just arrived. I feel like a rookie. I feel strong and I feel hungry to keep doing what I did when I got here and continue doing it this coming year.”

Ramirez not only aimed for the White Sox to be a better team defensively, he said he would focus on the run-production side of his game. So far his run production projects as his worst season in the major leagues.

“I think power-wise, he would like to hit a few more homers, but batting second, he’s focused on making sure he’s up the middle, the other way, putting him in hit-and run situations,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s done what we’ve asked him to do. Home-run wise, that will happen.”

The White Sox would probably be able to deal with the hitting woes if Ramirez’s defense was forcing him into the Gold Glove conversation as was expected. While showing flashes of brilliance with his glove, Ramirez has yet to show he is one of the better defenders in the game.

“It’s one of those that I think some years and sometimes you get those,” Ventura said. “The one Sunday, it’s a tough one to give because it’s a tough ground ball, the field is hard, I think a lot has been made of it.

“He’s a good shortstop. He’s going to be playing every day. His focus and everything, as long as that’s there, he’s going to be playing. He’s handled it fine. He’s put it behind him, and comes back ready to play the next day.”

If anything, Ramirez seems to be struggling with the mental side of the game, but promises that he’s working on it.

“I have done everything I have always done to catch the ball, anticipate and obviously I hurt more than anybody else when these things happen,” Ramirez said. “The support that my family and friends have given me has been key through these difficult times.

“My mind is still the same, I still have high expectations. I can’t do anything about yesterday or the past. I’ve got today and that’s why I have to concentrate on.”

He admits that putting a tough day like Sunday behind will be difficult.

“It is difficult for anybody who does it, but especially for me because I care about the team and I take things very seriously,” he said. “It is difficult but there’s nothing I can do about it now. Just learn from that and concentrate on what comes next and that’s what I’m going to do.”