Jose Ramirez has done a little bit of everything for the Cleveland Indians since he joined the organization as a free-agent signee out of the Dominican Republic nearly a decade ago.
From left field to various points around the infield, the Indians have used Ramirez in multiple ways over his four years at the Major League level, but with the additions of veterans in free agency and the retention of all but one of their arbitration-eligible players this offseason, manager Terry Francona would like to narrow his newly extended infielder’s focus.
“Rather not put him in the outfield,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He could do it, but I just think for who we have, he’s such a good infielder. Wherever you put him in the infield, he’s a pretty good defender. I know if you play him at shortstop, his arm might be exposed a little bit, but when you played him every day at third, he became pretty good and his natural position’s at second.
“You don’t want to weaken yourself too much if you can help it. The other thing to think about is we have interleague the fourth game of the year. That’s why Millsy stayed back and just worked with Santana in the outfield just to try to keep every option open that there is.”
Despite struggling through his first three years with the Indians, Ramirez settled into a spot at third base and had a career year with 176 hits in 565 at-bats over 152 games during the 2016 regular season. Ramirez smacked 46 doubles, hit three triples and belted 11 home runs with 76 runs batted in and 84 scored.
During the postseason, Ramirez had 15 hits in 56 at-bats with two doubles and one home run, which proved to be the difference in a 1-0 Indians victory over the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the 2016 World Series at Wrigley Field.
“This kid’s been with us now parts of four years, and there’s been some ups and downs,” Francona said. “Then, when it seems like we have the ultimate down with Brantley out, he comes into the fold and not only picks up some of the slack, but proves he’s an every-day Major League player.”
Having never hit above .265 when given at least 235 at-bats in a Major League season, Ramirez smacked 176 hits, 60 of which went for extra bases during the 2016 season. Along with his 44 walks, 22 stolen bases and .312 batting average, Ramirez set single-season highs in every major statistical category last year.
“You get the versatility that he gives, and it makes him even better,” Francona said. “We’re excited. He deserves a lot of credit because the jury was out depending on who you talk to, and he went and proved not only can he do it, but he can be pretty good at it.”
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