White Sox want shortstop Alexei Ramirez to take his game to next level
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org March 28, 2013 10:35PM
Updated: March 29, 2013 9:01PM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The problem with always wanting more is that you’ll never have enough.
The only thing bad about having a Silver Slugger award is that your trophy case lacks a Gold Glove to complete a precious-metal set.
Alexei Ramirez drove in 73 runs last season, the most by an American League shortstop. He had a career-high 20 stolen bases (in 27 attempts) and batted .336 with runners in scoring position, which ranked 11th in the AL. He also sunk to career lows in batting average (.265), home runs (nine) and walks (16).
So there’s room for him to improve, even with his defense, which was steady and, at times, spectacular.
‘‘He’s one of the premier shortstops in the league,’’ Sox third-base coach and former infielder Joe McEwing said. ‘‘He’s so talented, and it’s a shame he doesn’t get talked about with the elite shortstops in the game because he is. Tremendous range, strong arm. He’s a special talent.’’
That said, the Sox subtly are asking Ramirez to give them more, nudging him to step up his offense and leadership presence on the field. McEwing, who wants to see Ramirez locked in on every pitch when he’s playing short, often would sit for chats at Ramirez’s locker during spring training. They would talk about taking charge and paying attention to detail in the field. There has been progress.
‘‘We all continue to learn and grow every day,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘Just being consistent from day to day, being locked in on every pitch. He made strides with that last year, and he made even bigger strides with that in spring training.’’
Ramirez tied his career high for games played with 158 last season and committed a career-low 12 errors. Still, there’s room for improvement.
‘‘Errors are going to happen,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘[But] make the aggressive error rather than the non-aggressive error. He can take it to another level.’’
The Sox also want to see Ramirez use the whole field when he hits, bring his batting average up and, while he’s at it, maybe draw more walks and get on base more often. His on-base percentage last season was .287.
Being a free swinger is in Ramirez’s DNA, though. At 31, he’s not going to change much. But McEwing said he liked what he saw from Ramirez when it came to moving the ball around the field during spring training.
‘‘He’s more consistent in his approach driving the ball to right field,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘Instead of being pull-happy, he’s taking his hits to right.’’
Say this for Ramirez, a Silver Slugger winner in 2010 who covets a Gold Glove to place alongside it: He talks like a team guy when he’s asked about the numbers he wants to put up. He wasn’t satisfied with the season he had in 2012.
‘‘The most important thing is the team,’’ he said. ‘‘The goal that matters is going to the postseason. This team definitely has a chance.’’
And when he collided with Alejandro De Aza in the outfield last season, injuring his wrist in the process, Ramirez toughed it out to the end.
‘‘Every time I swung and didn’t connect, I’d have to wait a minute or so for the [pain go away],’’ he said.
It might be time to tough it out again. Ramirez was hit in the upper biceps/right shoulder his last time up Wednesday in Arizona. He’s day-to-day with a bruised shoulder.
‘‘I can’t raise my arm above this,’’ he said, holding his arm parallel to the ground while getting dressed for the Sox’ flight to Chicago.
Ramirez has four more days to heal before Opening Day.
‘‘All the things I wanted to do to prepare for the season I accomplished in spring training,’’ Ramirez said Wednesday. ‘‘Now I want to get going.’’
Who knows? Ramirez might show Sox watchers more than they’ve seen from him before.
‘‘He is continuing to grow,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘He could be — and I think he will be — better than he has shown.’’