Dombrowski hopes for 'athletic' Hanley in '16

Red Sox president doesn't think transitioning first baseman necessarily needs to be power hitter

Dombrowski hopes for 'athletic' Hanley in '16

CLEVELAND -- The one thing that new Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski hopes to see from Hanley Ramirez next season is a more flexible, athletic player.

Perhaps because he switched to left field prior to 2015 and was told he was going to hit behind David Ortiz, Ramirez came in bigger and more powerful but unable to impact games in the multi-faceted ways he had during most of his career.

Although Ramirez is again transitioning to a position -- first base -- associated with power hitters, Dombrowski feels it's important Ramirez gets back to his roots.

"He'll be in a position where he's the athletic Hanley, more so," Dombrowski said. "He's a very big guy. We're not concerned necessarily with how many home runs he hits because he'll hit some naturally. It's more about driving in runs and hitting doubles and hitting the gaps. That's how he's always been."

Although Ramirez took some criticism from fans and media for going back to South Florida to get started with his personal trainer rather than sitting on the bench and cheering his teammates on for the final week of the season, there seemed to be a clear reason the organization signed off on that decision.

"It's just getting him in a spot where he can stay healthy and on the field and work towards that and be ready for 2016," Dombrowski said.

Dombrowski -- hired as Red Sox president on Aug. 18 after parting ways with the Tigers on Aug. 4 -- doesn't know all the inner workings of what went into Ramirez's conditioning program last winter.

"That's hard for me to answer because I wasn't there, but I did hear that he came in bigger just for the simple fact he was thinking, 'I'm going to be a left fielder or maybe a power guy.' Sometimes that extra weight doesn't always translate into what you're trying to accomplish," Dombrowski said.

"I've told him from the beginning that I don't think of Hanley Ramirez as a big power guy. I think of him as a guy who has power, who's a real good hitter and hit the gaps and can be a league leader in doubles and RBIs," he added. "I said very similar to Miguel Cabrera. In the one sense, Miguel's got unbelievable power, but he's just a great hitter. That's what we're looking more for Hanley to be. Don't try to take on a different thought process, and don't think just because you're going to be at first base, you have to do more."

Although there's been plenty of external speculation that Ramirez will be on the trading block this winter, the remaining balance of his contract ($66 million over three years) could make a move tough to pull off.

Does Dombrowski feel that Ramirez can positively impact the Red Sox going forward?

"As long as he comes back and can be the Hanley that we know, sure. He's done it in the past," Dombrowski said. "We've got to get him back there. I think he's committed to doing that. We've got to work with him. I think it's a difference of him being with the organization for a year where the training and conditioning people know him and we can come up with some different thought processes in how to make that work, so again, I think we can accomplish that."

Although Ramirez has been much maligned for the season he had offensively and defensively in 2015, he is still capable of changing the narrative.

"He's important for us, and he's a guy that can be a really, really good hitter," Dombrowski said. "I don't mean to take away from anyone else, but this guy is a premium hitter when he's going well."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.