BOSTON -- The worst-kept secret about the Boston Red Sox's roster has finally been revealed.
Hanley Ramirez doesn't really want to play first base.
"I know for a fact that he thrives in the DH spot. That's probably his preference overall," Red Sox manager John Farrell said Friday at Fenway Park before the opener of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays. "He's not boycotting (first base), but I know where his preference lies."
Although the Sox intended for Ramirez to take over as the primary designated hitter after David Ortiz's retirement last year, they were planning to use him at first base against left-handed pitchers in order to get righty-mashing Chris Young in the lineup. But Ramirez didn't play defense in spring training because of a sore shoulder that limited his throwing. He was closing in on being ready to play first base last week when he came down with the flu and missed four games.
According to Farrell, Ramirez hasn't played catch at all since he rejoined the team this week. Ramirez doesn't sound like he much intended to do so either. After his game-tying two-run double in the eighth inning of Thursday's 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was asked if he's nearly ready to dust off his glove.
"Why?" Ramirez said. "I just got a hit, man. And I think (first baseman) Mitch (Moreland) is doing a pretty good job. But let's see what John is trying to do. It's coming along good, but my main thing right now, just drive people in."
Indeed, it will be worth it for the Red Sox to make sure Ramirez is happy and fully engaged in getting big hits and producing runs from the cleanup spot, especially without Ortiz around to keep him focused. Moreland was leading the league with eight doubles entering play Friday night, and considering illness, a knee injury to center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and other issues have prevented Boston from having its full lineup together since Opening Day, Young has gotten plenty of at-bats.
Bradley could be reinstated from the disabled list as soon as Thursday. Once everything returns to normal, Farrell said he hasn't given up the ghost of Ramirez at first base. But the longer he goes without playing the position, the more difficult it will be for the Red Sox to put him out there.
"In conversations throughout the winter, once we acquired Mitch, the conversations throughout spring training, (Ramirez) understands how our roster is built," Farrell said. "What's best for our team has him going to first base on occasion."
Just maybe not as often as the Red Sox originally planned.