Hanley Ramirez making smooth transition to left field for Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. ? Asking a 10-year major league veteran ? especially a three-time All-Star ? to take on a new position can be a tall order. Asking him to take on a position he has never played since signing his first professional contract as a 16-year-old ? save for a few games in instructional league ? and that request only becomes taller.
When the Red Sox signed former shortstop Hanley Ramirez, 31, in November to a four-year, $88 million deal, it was to be their new left fielder. Both the team and the player are confident the transition will be a successful one.
?He?s done pretty nice,” said Arnie Beyeler, the club?s outfield instructor and first-base coach. “He?s played 10 years in the big leagues, so he knows how to play the game. He knows how to read hitters and read pitches. He knows how to read situations, with runners on base, things like that.”
Beyeler has been responsible for working with Ramirez ? an All-Star shortstop from 2008-2010 while with the Marlins ? on his fielding almost daily since early February.
?He?s unbelievable,” Ramirez said. “He?s been helping me a lot. Everyday he?s on top of me and I like that.”
Ramirez is not concerned about making the transition at this stage of his career.
?No challenge,” he said. “We just got to continue working every day like we?ve been doing. We put a lot of work out there to get to know the Green Monster a little bit.
?That?s how you get better, working every day, shagging during (batting practice) so you can read the balls. So that?s all you got to do is work hard every day if you want to be not just good but one of the best in the game.”
Ramirez had Sunday off after playing three consecutive days. In five spring games, he?s played a total of 24 innings in left. He hasn?t had a lot of chances in that time. For now, though, Beyeler sees that as a good thing.
?That allows him just to get acclimated and get comfortable for now,” Beyeler said. “He might make mistakes, but that?s what spring training is for.
?He?s worked as hard as anybody out there. He came to camp two weeks early and we?ve worked every day. So when we get into certain situations it?s not going to be new to him. Now, he just needs the live repetitions.”
Fenway Park?s left field wall can be intimidating even to seasoned fielders. Having the replica wall at the Sox spring training home helps the learning process. While it doesn?t exactly replicate balls off the wall like Fenway?s Green Monster, it can help smooth the transition and minimize the intimidation.
?This wall is different,” Beyeler said. “The corner is different without the garage door. This one has a net in it that Fenway doesn?t have. The scoreboard at Fenway is more jagged and balls come off it differently. There are intricacies. But, it helps to at least get the feel for it. It?s 10 times better than nothing.”
Ramirez is returning to the Red Sox for the first time since the November 2005 trade that sent him ? at the time, one of the top prospects in baseball ? to the Marlins for right-hander Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell. It was the trade that helped deliver the 2007 World Series to Boston.
?Awesome,” Ramirez said of his return. “There?s a lot of people here still since I left. When they saw me it was a lot of love they show me and I love that. It feels like it was yesterday. That?s why you got to every day appreciate what you do; keep working hard because time goes quick.”
There are some who are skeptical Ramirez?s transition will go smoothly. He is bringing some extra baggage back to Boston. Ramirez has developed a reputation as a player who is frequently injured, can be a problem in the clubhouse, and who may not always give maximum effort.
In May 2010, Fredi Gonzalez, then the manager of the Marlins, benched Ramirez after he misplayed a ball at shortstop, kicking the ball into the left field corner, and did not hustle to recover. It cost the Marlins three runs in a 5-1 loss to the Diamondbacks.
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