GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jose Ramirez is expected to be a bench player for the Indians to start this season, but manager Terry Francona does not plan on keeping Ramirez on the bench for long periods of time. Francona's hope is that he will find ways to work Ramirez into the mix on a semi-regular basis.
Cleveland can only hope that Ramirez's showing this spring is evidence that the versatile utility player is poised to become the kind of weapon Francona has in mind. Ramirez is a switch-hitter who offers speed, occasional pop and can handle second base, shortstop and third. Ramirez has even convinced the club that he can help in left or center field, if needed.
"I think he can thrive in that role," Francona said on Monday morning. "If he can swing the bat, all of a sudden you're looking for ways to get him in, as opposed to just looking to give somebody a day off. I think there's a difference there."
Through 13 games this spring, Ramirez hit .385 (15-for-39) with four home runs, three doubles, two stolen bases and 11 RBIs. In Sunday's 3-1 win over the Mariners, the 23-year-old infielder flashed some power by launching a pair of home runs. He has logged four starts at second, six at third and one each in left and center field.
A year ago, Ramirez was prepping to be the Opening Day shortstop, but a slow start eventually led to Francisco Lindor's rise to the Major Leagues. Ramirez hit .175 (.459 OPS) in April and his average stood at .180 (.487 OPS) when he was optioned back to the Minor Leagues last June.
Perhaps Ramirez's Cactus League showing portends better fortune come April this season.
"He's a confident kid," Francona said. "I also think, though, when the season starts, it is different. But, if you're asking me if I'd rather see [what he's doing this spring]? Heck yeah. You know it's there. I hope another year of maturity and experience helps him when it comes to April and May."
After Ramirez returned to the Majors for good in August last season, he hit .259 (.775 OPS) down the stretch for Cleveland. In his final 20 games, he hit at a .299 clip with four homers, 11 extra-base hits, 11 RBIs and more walks (seven) than strikeouts (five) in his final 74 plate appearances.
"He's not going to sit for [long stretches]," Francona said. "That doesn't help anybody."