Aramis makes first career start at first base

Pirates' 18-year vet has played more than 2,000 games at third

Aramis makes first career start at first base

CINCINNATI -- Aramis Ramirez has spent 18 years in the Major Leagues, all of them at third base. But after more than 2,000 games and nearly 18,000 innings at the hot corner, Ramirez found a new home across the infield Tuesday night.

Ramirez started at first base for the Pirates at Great American Ball Park in Tuesday's 7-3 win, his first appearance anywhere other than third base or designated hitter. It was the result of a nearly month-long experiment, as Pittsburgh asked Ramirez to work at first about two weeks after acquiring him from the Brewers.

"It was a big ask," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I don't know where it's going to go, but I wanted to make sure that we looked at all our options moving forward."

Ramirez, 37, put in the necessary work before games with infield coach Nick Leyva and picked up tips from Pedro Alvarez and Michael Morse. On Tuesday, the Pirates decided it was time to put the plan into action.

Ramirez wasn't tested often on Tuesday, but he made the plays he had to. His first action came in the third inning, when he received a perfectly placed throw from shortstop Jordy Mercer. He didn't have to move to record a putout in the fourth, catching a line drive hit directly at him.

He caught another ball from Mercer in the fifth inning, and that was the full extent of his defensive work. Sean Rodriguez replaced him in the seventh inning.

"It was a quiet night," Hurdle said. "He didn't look uncomfortable over there, didn't have many plays. We'll see where it takes us."

When the Pirates traded for Ramirez in July, their infield depth was depleted by injuries. They needed a steady presence on the left side of their infield, and they got it at third base from Ramirez.

Now, Pittsburgh is overflowing with infielders and looking for ways to get them in the lineup. With Ramirez at first base Tuesday, Jung Ho Kang started at third base and Mercer at shortstop.

"We need to look at the option, I felt, at this particular point in time in the season," Hurdle said. "If it's good, we have more time to work with it. And if it's not, we know, and we cut the line and we move off."

If Ramirez looks good at first base, the Pirates would have another way to keep his bat in the middle of their lineup. He's hit .250/.299/.424 with five home runs and 26 RBIs -- and .341 with runners in scoring position -- in 36 games since joining the Pirates.

It's not an easy transition to make so quickly, as the Pirates have seen this year with Alvarez making the move from third to first base. Alvarez has committed 19 errors, tied for the most by a first baseman since 2000.

But Ramirez gave it a shot, grabbing a first baseman's glove from Alvarez and getting to work -- a selfless gesture by a veteran playing in what he's said will be his final season before retirement.

"I had no idea that I was going to have to play some other position," Ramirez said. "I'm going to give it a try and see. If I can help the team doing that, I will."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.