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Red Sox work out Hanley Ramirez at 1st in anticipation of possible move

CHICAGO -- There's a simple reason, Red Sox president David Dombrowski said Tuesday, that the team began working out Hanley Ramirez at first base.

Given the way the team's young outfielders -- Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo -- are playing, it was the "logical" thing to do, Dombrowski said by phone from Boston. And judging by what Ramirez told reporters Tuesday, he agrees.

"We got Jackie, we got Mookie, we got the Cuban guy -- what's his name? I know his name -- they cover a lot of ground out there," Ramirez said. "It's what we need. You want young blood out there, hustling and diving all over the place.

"I can't do that. I had two surgeries on my left shoulder; I can't be flying all over the place. It's really impressive when you got those three guys out there, and I'm really happy to move to see that."

Better to answer the question now of whether Ramirez can make the transition to first base, Dombrowski said, than next spring.

Dombrowski has yet to complete his first week on the job, but he arrived at that conclusion after meeting last week with manager John Farrell and interim manager Torey Lovullo. He subsequently informed Ramirez's agents, Adam Katz and Andy Mota, of the club's thinking, then summoned Ramirez for a meeting that included the club president, Farrell, Lovullo and Brian Butterfield, the infield instructor who helped transform Mike Napoli from a catcher into an outstanding defensive first baseman.

"Hanley was receptive to it," Dombrowski said. "He thought it was worth trying. And we think he should be able to get into games [at first] before the end of the year.

"The guy can be an offensive force. He's one of the purest hitters in the game. And he said he wanted to be part of this team when it wins and would do what he could to help us get there."

Dombrowski initially had expressed some reservations about conducting such an experiment at this time of year, citing the possibility of injury. But after watching the way the outfielders have been playing and talking to all parties involved, Dombrowski embraced the idea.

"We didn't have anyone who thought differently," he said. "Our three young outfielders are well-rounded. They're young, all outstanding defensive outfielders and all look like they have the ability to contribute offensively.

"They look like they could be our outfield of the future. If that is the case, then we had to look at Hanley's situation and the best way to use him."

If Ramirez can make the transition to first base -- an open question, Dombrowski said -- the Sox will have few questions from a positional basis next season. The infield is set at the other three positions, with Dustin Pedroia at second, Xander Bogaerts at short and Pablo Sandoval at third. Christian Vazquez, recovering from Tommy John surgery, should be back in the catching mix with Blake Swihart and Ryan Hanigan, and Betts, Bradley and Castillo would comprise the outfield.

"We know Hanley can handle ground balls," Dombrowski said. "He was a shortstop. It will be a question of learning the footwork involved."

Ramirez, who will be 32 in December, has been the worst defender in baseball in left field, according to advanced metrics. He has been especially exposed trying to play in the confined spaces of left field in Fenway Park, where he hasn't come close to taming the Green Monster.

In a tone that alternated between joking and serious, Ramirez told reporters that they were to blame for the Sox deciding to try him at first. He said media criticism was responsible for the Sox shifting Bogaerts to third, an interesting bit of revisionist history.

"Thank God you guys leave him [Bogaerts] alone," Ramirez said. "It's impressive, how much improvement he's made."

Ramirez said he hopes he can make the successful transition to first base.

"Hopefully, so you guys don't move me to pitch," Ramirez said with a laugh. "Like I say, I'm going to take my ground balls, do a lot of footwork. I think it'll save my body, too, so I can hit more home runs."

When Ramirez came out for pregame stretch, he grabbed three gloves in the dugout, including a catcher's mitt, and carried them onto the field.

"Nothing is imminent," Lovullo said. "We just wanted to see how it looked.

"We have a program we're going to try to follow. He'll play in a game if he's ready. We're not going to rush this. He's going to continue to play left field for us.

"We're looking to see what we can do for 2016. That's the whole idea. We want to make sure everything is in order for this team to move forward today, tomorrow and the future."

The burden of converting Ramirez to first base will fall on Butterfield, who in 2013 had a willing pupil in Napoli, who worked for hours on a daily basis in early-morning sessions in spring training.

"We took our time today," said Butterfield, who had some assistance from David Ortiz in his first session with Ramirez at first base. "We had a chalk talk, a little bit of drill work, where to put your feet, where to put your glove, basic stuff that you would present to a guy who never played first base.

"It's going to be a process. It's probably going to be slow. We'll take our time. We'll get a little bit every day, even if it means sneaking to the back of the cages on a rain day for footwork drills, short-hop drills, get him comfortable.

"A guy playing first base, his first priority is getting to an anchor, being able to adjust to and from, because you're handling the welfare of your other three infielders and your pitcher. Beyond that, then we'll go slow, breaking everything else down, starting with the 3-6 double play, the pitcher covering first, all the team defenses, the bunt defenses, getting into team cutoffs, knowing when to cut the ball, knowing where to go on all cuts and relays. There's an awful lot that goes into it."

Butterfield sounded positive about Ramirez's willingness to do the work.

"He's a good kid," Butterfield said. "I'm looking forward to getting into the meat and potatoes. Can he play in a game this year? That's a wait and see for me. I don't think anything is going to be rushed. We're not going to force someone to take on that load."