Hanley Ramirez

Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Red Sox 10, Orioles 3: Hanley suddenly perfect player, and Alex Cora saw it coming

John Tomase
April 14, 2018 - 5:10 pm

Here's the crazy thing about Good Hanley -- 497 plate appearances can't arrive quickly enough.

Red Sox fans need no reminder of the two Hanley Ramirezes. The good one hits for power, fields his position, plays every day, and refuses to take himself seriously.

The bad one can't stay healthy, only hits mistakes, and might as well lock his glove in a hope chest. Bad Hanley, for what it's worth, doesn't take himself seriously, either.

So far, 2018 is shaping up to be a Good Hanley season, and the Red Sox offense is rolling as a result. Ramirez returned to the lineup on Saturday against the Orioles and wasted no time making his presence felt, ripping a two-run homer in his first at-bat and later adding a laser double off the Monster that probably would've left most other parks on a line.

One year after shoulder ailments sapped him of his power -- "I hit basically hit 23 homers one-handed," he noted in spring training -- Ramirez appears locked, loaded, and ready to do major damage as the No. 3 hitter on what is rapidly becoming one of baseball's best offenses. He certainly did his part in Saturday's 10-3 victory over the Orioles.

"He gave it a go and then he took batting practice outside and it was impressive," said manager Alex Cora. "He was driving the ball all over the place. He's not going to lie to me. He understands that we need him healthy, and we're not going to take any chances. I was happy he was in the lineup and he contributed."

For all the attention given the hot starts of first Xander Bogaerts and then Mookie Betts, the best numbers in the lineup belong to Ramirez. He's hitting .362 with three homers and 15 RBIs, all tops on the team.

Among his achievements is a walk-off single to win the home opener in extra innings against the Rays. That moment concluded with Ramirez racing into right field to avoid the talcum/water/Gatorade shower typically reserved for such moments.

He steps to the plate to A-Ha's 1980s hit "Take on Me," which has prompted the crowd to deliver an impressively extended falsetto on, "I'll … be … gone. In a day or twoooooooo …." In short, he looks like someone having the time of his life.

His return just two days after being hit on the hand/wrist was a welcome sight. Cora had named Ramirez his No. 3 hitter early in spring training, which raised eyebrows, but in short order, Ramirez has proven indispensable.

"You know when you visit someone and they're confident and they tell you things you want to hear?" Cora said of an offseason visit to Ramirez. "I still remember, I saw him in that clinic in Miami and he was doing his rehab and the first thing he said was, 'You don't have to worry about me. I'll be fine.' I'll go back to last year. I saw him in October. Out of all the guys, for whatever reason he was locked in and he was the guy we were really paying attention to, because he was hitting line drives all over the place. When he's locked in and healthy, he's very dangerous.

"With all the traffic that Mookie and Benny are going to create, he's going to have good at-bats. He's going to get good pitches to hit. Sometimes we get caught up in the protection part of it, but obviously when J.D.'s swinging the bat, that's a good spot. I told (Ramirez), I really don't care about the homers. I want you to be a good hitter and when he's a good hitter, he's very dangerous. A good hitter is driving the ball all over the place, right-center, left-center, doesn't matter. So he's locked in.

What does this have to do with 497 plate appearances? That's the number Ramirez must reach to guarantee his $22 million option for 2019. At this rate, the Red Sox may pick that one up on their own, because Good Hanley is worth every penny.

One year after finishing last in the American League in home runs, the Red Sox are finding the range. In addition to Ramirez, J.D. Martinez also launched his third homer of the year, an opposite-field shot into the Red Sox bullpen. As WEEI's Lou Merloni has noted, Martinez is a combined 5-10 feet from having six homers this year instead of three, but regardless, the ball is starting to fly off his bat.

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