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Red Sox lineup: Hanley Ramirez starting at first base, Christian Vazquez catching

Rob Bradford
March 28, 2018 - 3:40 pm

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Alex Cora identified Hanley Ramirez as his No. 3 hitter early on in camp, and sure enough, that's where the first baseman will find himself on Opening Day.

The Red Sox manager said Wednesday that Ramirez would get the start at first and hit behind No. 2 hitter Andrew Benintendi against Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer in the season opener Thursday.

"He was hitting line drives the other way," said Cora when asked about Ramirez' performance in spring training. That is very important. For everything he has said, 30-30, 40 attempts? Let’s be honest. If Hanley goes 30-30, I will take him out to dinner and I will pay. I will take them all out to dinner when we come back to Tampa. He’s in a good spot. Driving the ball the other way. We get caught up in the power and all that, but when Hanley is a good hitter he stays in the middle of the field. You can see a lot of teams, they move that second baseman over and he can actually hit the ball hard the other way. He’s going to have RBI situations and if he stays within himself, he’s going to have a good season."

"I think once we talked the first time in December, he’s committed. He’s engaged. I saw how he played at the end, and that was a good player. Whatever reason, all of a sudden it clicked in the playoffs and that was good to see. He’s a good player. He’s in a good place. Defensively, a lot better right now than people think. I think the adjustment he made with his release point is going to help us out. He has been very aggressive off the bag when we’ve shifted. That’s good to see."

The only other question mark regarding Cora's first lineup was at the catcher position, with Chris Sale having lined up with Sandy Leon virtually every start in 2017. This time, however, Christian Vazquez -- who caught the brunt of Sale's Grapefruit League outings -- gets the start, hitting ninth.

With Mookie Betts leading off, J.D. Martinez hitting cleanup, Xander Bogaerts in the No. 5 spot, the only uncertainty is at No. 6 and 7, with Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nunez slotting in at the two spots. Jackie Bradley Jr. will hit eighth.

Ramirez has a career .333 batting average (7-for-21) against Archer, striking out 11 times, while first baseman Mitch Moreland is 3-for-11 vs. the Tampa Bay righty.

Betts and Benintendi both have the most success against Archer, with the leadoff hitter carrying a .387 batting average against the pitcher (12-for-31, 4 homers), and the Sox' left fielder collecting five hits in 10 at-bats.