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Red Sox optimistic about Hanley, but ready to move on if he struggles

Three-time All-Star Hanley Ramirez will move to first base this season after a disastrous season defensively in left field. Michael Ivins/Getty Images

The Boston Red Sox wanted Hanley Ramirez to lose weight in the offseason, and when he arrived at Boston's camp Wednesday, he appeared to be lighter, writes Rick Weber. From Rick's story:

He looked leaner -- he said his weight is "a couple pounds" down from last year -- and was in a playful mood during and after his 77-minute workout.

Asked if his switch from outfield to first base is just a one-and-done thing, after which he would take over at designated hitter for the retiring David Ortiz, he quipped, "What if I win a Gold Glove? What is going to happen next year? It's too far [away]. I don't make those decisions. I have a boss."

Wait a second. The goal is to win the Gold Glove?

"Definitely," Ramirez said. "It would be nice, you know … for you guys. We're going to work a lot. I just want to make my infielders comfortable. Catch the ball and throw it. That's the main key right now. I told Bogey [shortstop Xander Bogaerts] right away, 'Just throw the ball in this area and you'll be fine. Don't worry, I got you.' Pedey [second baseman Dustin Pedroia], he don't make bad throws. 'I'm always going to hit you in the chest.' "

Last year's experiment blew up in the face of the Red Sox and Ramirez, the 32-year-old former All-Star who signed a four-year, $88 million contract a year ago.

It stands to reason that Ramirez will be better than expected at first base, given the low expectations he has created with his disastrous time in left field last year. Ramirez has spent the better part of his lifetime playing in the infield, as a shortstop, and he is a lot more accustomed to the speed of the game on the dirt than he was in his brief time in the grass of the outfield. He's an excellent athlete, and while first base defense can be a lot more complicated than casual fans know, he would seem to have a chance to be below average -- better than awful, for sure.

But if Ramirez is really, really awful, and if he still doesn't hit to the level the Red Sox need him to, after batting .249 with 12 doubles, 1 triple and 19 homers in 105 games last season, the franchise is in a much better position to act aggressively to fix the position than it was a year ago.