Alexei Ramirez’s experience pays off with increased April production
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org April 29, 2013 10:47PM
Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez hits a single during the sixth inning at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Ill., on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
The facts: 7:05 p.m., CSN+, 670-AM, 97.5 FM.
The pitchers: Jose Quintana (2-0, 2.78 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (4-1, 1.65).
THE REST OF THE SERIES
Wednesday: 7:05 p.m., Ch. 26, 670-AM, 97.5-FM.
Chris Sale (2-2, 4.09) vs. Nick Tepesch (2-1, 2.53).
Thursday: 1:05 p.m., CSN, 670-AM, 97.5-FM. Jake Peavy (3-1, 3.38) vs. Justin Grimm (2-0, 1.59).
Updated: June 1, 2013 6:27AM
The month of April and its fickle weather never have been kind to Alexei Ramirez.
The shortstop, who hit only .222 in the first five Aprils with the White Sox, has been a different player in 2013, hitting .282 when most teammates have struggled at the plate.
Ramirez is still averaging only .234 at home, but his .324 average on the road accounts for the noticeable change.
Ramirez said experience has helped him make adjustments, as did a better preseason workout approach.
“I prepared myself well, starting in Miami [his offseason home] and then when I went to Arizona,” he said through Sox coach Lino Diaz. “Experience has a lot to do with it, but as a professional athlete, when things aren’t going right, you try to look for ways to fix things quickly. That’s what I tried to do, and that’s what I’ve been doing since [the off-season in] Miami.’’
With a Silver Slugger Award (2010) already on his resume, finding a better “April” approach perhaps was only a matter of time for the 31-year-old Cuban native.
“Sometimes he tries to do too much, but when he stays within himself, he’s so good,” said double-play partner Gordon Beckham. “He already has a Silver Slugger — and he probably should have had a Gold Glove.’’
That is an opinion many share after Ramirez played 158 games at the spotlight infield position and committed only 12 errors. His .982 fielding percentage tied for fourth best in the American League.
Beckham is understandably biased. He has played beside Ramirez since 2009 as a defensive duo that rivals any in baseball.
“It’s obviously a little more difficult than most because you’re not able to speak the same language, but there’s definitely something there between us,’’ Beckham said. “We know each other’s body language. We understand each other’s ability, and we’re on the same page.”
Like the rest of his teammates, Beckham admires the work ethic and quiet dedication of the man whose personal story, defecting from Cuba, was itself a struggle.
“People go through things. Everyone does. But that can make you a better person.
“He goes about his business. He’s still learning — you do in this game until you’re done playing. But it’s not everyone who can step in and play every day — and he does. He’s fun to watch.”
Ramirez admits to sometimes trying to do too much on his own when the Sox struggle.
“Sometimes you tend to stress a little, but when I get home, I relax and think about what I can do tomorrow to help the team,” he said. “That’s what I try to do — to stay within myself because I have a tendency to try to do everything myself.”
Ramirez may have a quiet personality, but he has become a mentor to the younger Latin players.
“I try to do the same things for them that Jose Contreras did for me,” he said of the former Sox pitcher and fellow Cuban. “I try to help them with tips on how things go at this level.”
It is a place Ramirez admits has become “family” to him, grateful not only for his playing opportunity but for personal moments beyond the norm, especially last season when team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf worked to replace the lost Olympic gold medal Ramirez won with Team Cuba in the 2004 Athens Games.
“I’m very, very thankful to him,’’ he said. “He’s been like a dad to me.
“I hope I can end my career as a White Sox.”
Note: The Sox acquired outfielder Casper Wells from the Oakland A’s for cash considerations. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Sox put minor-league pitcher Leyson Septimo on the 60-day disabled list.