For Hanley Ramirez, health has always been easy come, easy go

BOSTON -- Day-to-day? It will take a minor miracle for Red Sox left fielder Hanley Ramirez not to miss extended time after reinjuring his left shoulder, which he has already had surgically repaired twice since 2007. The most recent fix required open surgery in 2011, a considerably more invasive procedure than an arthroscopy.

Come to think of it, the last time Ramirez hurt the shoulder -- diving for a ball while playing for the Miami Marlins -- his octogenarian manager (and devout Catholic) Jack McKeon suggested that without divine intervention, his shortstop wouldn't be back anytime soon.

"I doubt it," McKeon said. "Unless I take him to St. Patrick's and get it blessed, put a little holy water on his shoulder or something. We might do that."

Ramirez never made it back that season, was traded the next, and since then has filled up his medical chart with enough aches, pains and assorted ills to single-handedly supply Shonda Rhimes with a season's worth of scripts for "Grey's Anatomy.

Hardly a body part was spared. Right thumb, left thigh, right shoulder, rib, left arm, left hand, left leg, right hand, right leg, abdomen and right elbow. He went on the DL three times in that span, an abdominal strain sidelining him for 14 games last August, and a hamstring strain (28 games) and thumb ligament surgery (24 games) placing him on the DL in 2013. The hamstring strain occurred just five days after he came off the DL from the thumb injury.

When healthy last season, Ramirez was clearly the Dodgers' best hitter, and one of the best in the National League. But he had broken down so many times he could no longer play his natural position, shortstop, which is why the Dodgers elected to let him walk as a free agent.

No one else thought he could play shortstop anymore, either. That's why Adam Katz, Ramirez's agent, approached Red Sox GM Ben Cherington last November and told him Hanley would be willing to play anywhere on the diamond. Ramirez originally was a backup plan at third base. If the Sox lost out on Pablo Sandoval, they'd pursue Ramirez.

But then the conversation expanded. Having determined they would trade Yoenis Cespedes for pitching help -- which ended up being Rick Porcello -- the Sox surveyed the landscape and decided the best bat they could find for left field was a guy who had never played the position.

They didn't exactly dawdle over the decision, either, striking deals with Ramirez and Sandoval almost simultaneously in late November. Ramirez cost $88 million, Sandoval $95 million, and a moribund Red Sox offense seemingly had been revived with just two strokes of John W. Henry's pen.

Risk, you say? Henry wasn't having any of it.

"I think the risk of doing nothing was much larger," Henry said on the day both players were introduced in Boston. "The risk is avoiding free agency.

"You can't put together a winning ballclub just through the minor league system. To me that would be really risky."

And for a month, at least when he had a bat in his hands, Ramirez conjured memories of the days when David Ortiz paired with another Ramirez -- Manny -- to torment opposing pitching staffs. His home runs sounded like Fourth of July cannons booming on the Esplanade. His line drives left the premises so fast, pace of play ceased to be an issue.

Not surprisingly perhaps, the comparisons to Manny also extended to the way Hanley played left field, with the skill of a surgeon whose training had come at a Holiday Inn Express. One fly ball nearly conked him in the head.

The most striking aspect of his latest injury was that, two days after Ramirez had jogged after a ball that escaped him -- nearly resulting in that Fenway Park rarity, a triple to left -- there was no faulting his effort Monday night. He went after James Loney's liner at full sprint and didn't apply the brakes until he'd smacked into the padded side wall of the left-field grandstand.

It leaves you to wonder, even if the injury does not prove debilitating, how eager Ramirez will be to resume playing in left, unless outfitted in full body armor and coal miner's helmet.

The Red Sox are hoping Ramirez will be day-to-day. They hoped the same for catcher Christian Vazquez in camp, and he wound up needing Tommy John surgery. Even with Ramirez, the team was foundering. Monday night they lost their fourth straight game, and are now two games under .500.

Without Ramirez? Pass the holy water, Jack.