Sandoval, Ramirez look forward to spring

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- As snow fell upon the Foxwoods Resort Casino on Saturday, where the Boston Red Sox held their Baseball Winter Weekend event, two of the team's newest acquisitions only had spring on their minds.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval and left fielder Hanley Ramirez haven’t often dealt with this type of weather. Ramirez, a native of the Dominican Republic, endured winter-like conditions in his time with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs as a Red Sox prospect, but that was nearly a decade ago. Meanwhile, Sandoval, a native of Venezuela, had never seen snow before in his life.

That’s not the reason why either is looking forward to spring, though. For both, it’s about the start of a new season with a new team, and the two are expected to be among the earliest arrivals at Fort Myers next month.

Position players are expected to report by Feb. 24. Sandoval, who lives in Miami, is planning to make his first trip Feb. 2. Meanwhile, Ramirez will be there a week later, arriving Feb. 9.

Needless to say, the two are excited to make their mark as members of the Red Sox.

“I think my vacation has been too long,” Ramirez said. “It’s time to start working and get to know my new teammates.”

Of course, it’s not just teammates whom Ramirez will have to get to know. Having never played a game in the outfield at the professional level, Ramirez will spend time working with first base coach and outfield instructor Arnie Beyeler, as he learns the ropes at his new position.

“He’s a great guy, he likes to work,” Ramirez said. “He told me, ‘If you don’t feel comfortable on one play or whatever, you just tell me and I can help you.’ He’s got some ideas for me so he can make my job easier.”

At this point, Ramirez has begun basic outfield drills, including tracking balls over his head, ranging side to side, and hitting the cutoff man on his throws. He also quipped that after meeting speedy outfielder Mookie Betts over the weekend, he told Betts that he expects him to handle any fly balls that come their way.

All jokes aside, Ramirez sounded confident in his ability to handle the position.

“I think if I put in all the work that I need to put to get better, it’s not going to be that hard,” Ramirez said.

As for Sandoval, getting to Fort Myers early is just going to a new location to continue his offseason workout program. The 28-year-old plans to spend a week with the team there, then head back to Miami before returning for good.

“As soon as possible that I can get there to get better with the guys, get close with those guys,” Sandoval said.

Despite having a slow start at the plate last season that saw him carry a .177 batting average into the month of May, Sandoval isn’t concerned about getting off to a similar start this year. In his mind, it’s not how you start but how you finish -- which in his case was pretty good, as he hit .366 in the postseason while leading his team to a third World Series title in five years.

Sandoval reiterated Saturday that his decision to leave the San Francisco Giants was only because he was looking for a new challenge. He talked about how things had come full circle there, leading him to sign with Boston this offseason instead of returning to San Francisco.

He was, however, proudly sporting his 2012 World Series ring, which he said he will always wear until he gets his ring from last year.

“That is what I keep as motivation,” he said.

At the end of the day, it isn't about anything more for Sandoval or Ramirez -- no particular statistics or awards. It’s about winning, something the two are expected to help a team that finished last in their division last year after winning it all in 2013 do.

Sandoval already has three rings and is looking for his fourth. Meanwhile, Ramirez said his ring finger is ready for his first. That quest begins early next month.

“Most of the team’s [already] got rings,” Ramirez said. “We just want to [give] as many as we can to the city.”