ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It was the afternoon of June 28 when Hanley Ramirez learned — and we use the term loosely — that he was struggling against left-handed pitching. Asked about his troubles with southpaws that day, Ramirez expressed surprise, then optimism that the results would change soon.
"Come back to me with (those stats) in August," he said.
He hasn't had to wait that long.
Prior to that day, Ramirez was 5-for-35 with a single extra-base hit against lefties. Entering Saturday, he's 6-for-9 since with two homers and two doubles.
It would be nice — and egotistical — to point to the media's questions as driving that turnaround. However, it's more likely a product of regression to the mean. As Ramirez pointed out 10 days ago, his strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefties was excellent. His low batting average on balls in play was likely holding down his overall results.
That’s played out in the time since, including Friday's ninth-inning opposite-field home run off Tampa Bay lefty Adam Kolarek. Ramirez has raised his OPS against lefties from .562 to .889 in nine at-bats.
"Even before the left-hander came in the game, (he had) balls hit hard to the right side of the field," manager John Farrell said. "That’s when we feel Hanley is locked in."
Ramirez has been solid overall over these past 10 days, with seven extra-base hits in his past 47 plate appearances.
Pomeranz to open 2nd half
The Red Sox set their rotation for coming out of the All-Star break, with Drew Pomeranz opening the second half against the Yankees on Fridayat Fenway Park. He'll be followed by Chris Sale on Saturday with Rick Porcello and David Price pitching the Sunday doubleheader.
Eduardo Rodriguez is in line to pitch a week from Monday against the Blue Jays, followed by Doug Fister. Boston needs to use six starters those first five days because of that doubleheader. At that point, Fister may be moved to the bullpen.
JBJ sits after 42 starts
Jackie Bradley, Jr. had the day off for Boston — his first since May 24, a span of 42 straight starts.
Farrell elected against bringing Bradley off the bench in the ninth inning when Chris Young popped up to end the game against Alex Colome. The manager cited Colome's reverse splits — over the last two seasons, lefties are hitting just .191 off him compared to .247 for righties — and Young's approach with the bases loaded.
"We felt we had the right guys at the plate," said Farrell.
What to do with Travis
During his latest stint in the majors, Sam Travis has been with the Red Sox for 19 games. He's only started five of them. He has only 25 plate appearances. Such is life for the short side of a platoon.
After excelling in a small sample in late May, Travis has struggled more in that role this time around, with just three hits in 23 at-bats. Farrell acknowledged Saturday that the team has to balance what's best for the major-league club now and what's best for Travis' long-term development.
"That’s a challenge," Farrell said. "It's a delicate balance. We try to pick spots where you get at least a pinch-hit at-bat to keep him in the flow of things. At times, we do have to determine what's best for him because in the long run that will be best for us as a team."
If the Red Sox have visions of Travis taking over as the full-time first baseman next year, it would behoove him to get more regular at-bats. This is a player who missed three months last season, and whose development has been staggered this year with the lack of recent playing time.
Boston is likely to face a pair of left-handed starters in their first series out of the All-Star break against the Yankees. Perhaps after that series, though, the Sox will send Travis back down to Triple-A to get more everyday at-bats.
Boyer adds right-handed arm
Earlier this season, the Red Sox bullpen leaned to the left. Despite a rotation that included three and at times four left-handers, the Boston pen had three lefties as well. That meant a heavy workload for the remaining righties, especially Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree.
That burden has been lightened by Blaine Boyer.
Signed to a minor-league deal in April and called up in late May, Boyer has become a right-handed jack-of-all-trades for the Red Sox bullpen. Entering Saturday, the 35-year-old has delivered 23 innings out of the bullpen with a 3.13 ERA.
"Maybe the correlation is he's an offensive lineman," Farrell said. "He might not get all the accolades, but he's been a workhorse lately in our bullpen."
"I love it. We're up here to pitch. We're not up here just to hang out," Boyer said. "I'm getting my opportunities to pitch in different varieties. I love being able to contribute in whatever way, shape or form I can."
Boyer's done a bit of everything this road trip. He got the win in the series opener in Toronto, working two high-leverage innings in the extra-inning victory over the Blue Jays. He's eaten some innings in blowout wins, and he kept Thursday's loss to the Rays tight with a quick inning.
"You get used to it," Boyer said of bouncing back between shorter and longer stints, high-leverage and low-leverage. "It's figuring out what your tool is going to be for the team. Mine needs to be to bounce back and throw in different situations. I'm up for it."
"He gives us a dimension out there we hadn't had — that’s a veteran guy who will take the ball quite often," president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said.
Boyer's in his 11th year in a big-league bullpen. That’s critical for a pen lacking that kind of experience.
"That presence is a calming one," Farrell said. "He's durable and willing to pitch whenever called upon."