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David Ortiz expects big things from Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez, who will be shifting to left field with the Red Sox, is a career .300 hitter with a .373 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage. JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF/Globe Staff

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic — Hanley Ramirez turns 31 later this month. He is married, has three children, and has played parts of 10 seasons in the major leagues. The idea that a seemingly fully formed person might need a mentor in the Red Sox clubhouse is curious at first glance.

But Ramirez is the same person who in 2010 feuded with then-Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez after being disciplined for loafing on defense. Upon being benched, Ramirez said others on the team were just as lazy.

The Marlins were relieved to trade Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. Ramirez then had issues with his new team, his swift-to-change moods becoming an annoyance to teammates and manager Don Mattingly last season.


Ramirez cheerfully suggested those issues were part of his past and would not be a problem with the Red Sox, the team that signed him in 2000 before trading him five years later.

“I’ve grown up,” Ramirez said. “I know what I need to do. The Red Sox are like coming home for me.”

Just in case, David Ortiz will be watching.

At 39, Ortiz is the longest-tenured Red Sox player and, along with Dustin Pedroia, the most respected. His influence on teammates and other players around the game is significant.

“David is somebody we look to,” Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano said. “If he tells you something, you listen.”

Ramirez, sporting blond dreadlocks, spent this weekend at Ortiz’s charity golf tournament along with Cano and a host of other players. Ortiz huddled with the new Red Sox left fielder several times, discussing the coming season and what to expect.

“He looks at me as one of his older brothers,” Ortiz said. “I’m going to try to encourage him to do the right thing as long we keep on playing [together] and probably beyond that because I don’t have the time that he has left.


“I’m going to, like we normally say, take him under my wing and show him whatever I can help him with and make sure he’s really successful in Boston.”

Ortiz has known Ramirez for years and followed his progress in baseball closely. When the incident with Gonzalez occurred, Ortiz was quick to publicly defend Ramirez while at the same time sending him text messages encouraging him to make peace with his manager.

Ramirez apologized to Gonzalez and the controversy died out.

“You reach out when you feel you need to reach out,” Ortiz said.

The challenge for Ramirez starting in spring training will be moving to left field for the first time in his career outside of a brief stint in winter ball years ago. If playing left and dealing with the Green Monster prove problematic, the Red Sox could have their own issues.

Ortiz’s experience with Ramirez could be a critical ingredient in the complicated recipe that is team chemistry.

“I always talk to Hanley. I’m always open with him. He listens to me,” Ortiz said. “He knows that the advice that I give him is priceless. There’s nothing I’m expecting in return. It’s a true friend’s advice and he listens.

“I think he’s going to handle it fine. Hanley is smart. He’s played for a big-market team, LA. In terms of media and stuff, he’s going to be fine, and in case something goes down I’ll be there for him. Other than that, the one thing I want him to think of is how he can play 140, 150 games.”


Said Ramirez: “David is somebody I trust. That was part of the reason I wanted to go back to Boston. Playing with him is something I always wanted to do.”

A healthy and happy Ramirez would change the look of a Red Sox lineup that produced only 634 runs last season, a startling 25 percent decrease from 2013.

Ramirez is a career .300 hitter with a .373 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage. Among active players with at least 3,500 at-bats, only Miguel Cabrera, Matt Holliday, and Albert Pujols are at those levels.

“He has an unbelievable work ethic, which is the most important thing. Guys who won’t stop working, you always expect something from players like that,” Ortiz said. “Hanley, to me, it was a really good decision we had and we’re going to see the result.”

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.