BOSTON — Did you know Hanley Ramirez is batting .143 against left-handed pitchers this season? Neither, it seems, did Ramirez.
Out of the Boston Red Sox‘s lineup for a third consecutive game Wednesday night after taking a pitch off the knee Sunday, Ramirez spoke with reporters on the field at Fenway Park after batting practice. During the conversation, he was told he’s 5-for-35 with eight strikeouts in 45 plate appearances against lefties, a far cry from his .346 mark last season or his .300 career average against southpaws.
“You’re kidding me,” Ramirez said. “It took you long enough to tell me that. I didn’t know that, for real. So OK, after this conversation, let’s see what’s going to happen now. I’ll say it: Bring it, OK? I didn’t know. I swear. Interesting. Thank you.”
Ramirez hasn’t hit particularly well overall this season. He has been hampered by soreness in both shoulders, which has limited him to only 12 innings at first base. Serving mostly as a designated hitter, he’s batting .241 with 10 HRs, 29 RBIs and a .747 OPS that ranked 111th out of 165 hitters with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title in both leagues entering Wednesday night.
But Ramirez said his shoulders are “feeling better now than early in the year” when he was having trouble using his top (right) hand to generate power in his swing.
“I was losing that,” Ramirez said. “I was talking to [hitting coaches] Chili [Davis] and Victor [Rodriguez] about that. I’ve got to be able to use that top hand — like Jim Rice.”
Ramirez developed a reputation early in his career as a problem, especially after feuding with then-Florida Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez. As a result, there has been speculation that Ramirez has exaggerated his shoulder problems because he prefers to be a full-time designated hitter rather than playing first base.
But Red Sox manager John Farrell disputed the notion that Ramirez is a difficult player to manage, claiming he “wouldn’t say Hanley is different than other guys in that clubhouse.”
On Tuesday, Farrell said he would consider using other players at DH against lefties, specifically veteran outfielder Chris Young or even rookie first baseman Sam Travis. But Farrell said Wednesday that he isn’t about to run from Ramirez as an everyday player, especially after the 34-year-old slugger posted one of the best offensive seasons of his career last year.
“We know it’s not to that  level yet, but we’re not going to give up on him by any means and say this isn’t going to happen,” Farrell said. “We see stretches where the impact of the baseball is to all fields. That’s always been the goal to get him to that. He’s not giving up on himself, and we’re not giving up on him.”
Ramirez said he expects to be back in the lineup Thursday night when the Red Sox wrap up their four-game series against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park.
At least the Sox will be facing a right-hander (Kyle Gibson), which will give Ramirez a reprieve from having to produce against another lefty.
“I’ve got to get going because I crush lefties,” Ramirez said. “It can’t happen.”