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Hanley Ramirez looking forward to 2017

Hanley Ramirez batted .286 with 30 home runs and 111 RBIs for the Red Sox in 2016.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

CAP CANA, Dominican Republic — It was at this time a year ago when Hanley Ramirez’s arrival at the David Ortiz Celebrity Classic was covered with an almost paparazzi-like fervor.

The Red Sox sent Ramirez into that offseason with specific instructions to get in better condition while learning how to play first base. Skeptics scoffed at the idea, believing Ramirez was an unalterable detriment after a poor, injury-filled season with the Sox in 2015.

Ramirez vowed to improve and he did, posting an .866 OPS and playing in all but 15 games. In addition to adeptly playing first base, Ramirez had 30 home runs and 111 RBIs.


A year later, again in his homeland supporting Ortiz, Ramirez was asked about being a team leader and how the Sox could best utilize him next season.

“Everything has changed,” he said. “It’s a good feeling.”

As the Red Sox search for a middle-of-the-order hitter to help replace Ortiz, Ramirez said he wants more games as the designated hitter but will play first base as often as needed. Rotating the DH, he said, could help several players stay fresh.

“Hanley will be good if they use him at first and give him a day between as the DH. That would be good for him,” Ortiz said.

Ramirez is confident it’ll work out.

“I just want to play and have my four at-bats, maybe five. It doesn’t matter where I’m going to be playing,” he said. “I’m not the type of player or person that said, ‘I want to do this; I want to do that.’ I’ll go into spring training and do whatever they ask me to do.”

He joked that infield instructor Brian Butterfield still has work to do with him.

“Butter, you’re safe,” he said.

Ramirez has committed to playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic and has asked the Red Sox for permission to play winter ball as part of his preparations. Ramirez would play for Licey in the DR.


He believes from past experience the WBC will be beneficial.

“You get your swing there, you get used to the game quicker in spring training,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez played in eight games for the Dominican Republic in 2013 and had a .900 OPS to help his country win the championship. But he suffered a thumb injury in the tournament that led to his starting the season on the disabled list.

Ramirez hit .345 with a 1.040 OPS for the Dodgers that season but played only 86 games because of assorted injuries.

With Ortiz off to retirement, Ramirez said the Sox have to replace his leadership collectively, starting with Dustin Pedroia.

“We have a couple of guys,” Ramirez said. “We’re going to stay the same team, together as a group. It’s not just one guy . . . I think we’ll be stronger mentally. It’s going to be good.”

Stroman a Price fan

Toronto pitcher Marcus Stroman, a former teammate and close friend of David Price, predicted the Sox lefthander will have a big season in 2017 after an inconsistent first year with the Sox.

“It didn’t go, I don’t think, as he planned,” Stroman said. “But he’s the type of pitcher who next year can have a Cy Young win. That’s the type of guy he is. I expect for him to come out next year and be dominant.”


Holaday a free agent

The Red Sox did not tender an offer to backup catcher Bryan Holaday, making him a free agent. He appeared in 14 games last season.

The other Sox players eligible for arbitration — lefthander Fernando Abad, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., utility man Brock Holt, righthander Joe Kelly, catcher Sandy Leon, lefthander Robbie Ross Jr., lefthander Drew Pomeranz, and righthander Brandon Workman — were tendered.

That essentially signs them for 2017 with a salary either negotiated by the team or determined via an arbitration hearing.

Big relief

The event drew about a dozen current major leaguers and the new collective bargaining agreement was a topic of conversation.

“Whenever a deal is struck, you lose or win on certain things. I’m just glad there’s not a work stoppage,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said.

Seattle’s Nelson Cruz joined the talks last week, traveling to Texas to lobby against an international draft or raising the age limit to 18 for foreign prospects. Elvis Andrus of the Rangers and Carlos Villaneuva of the Padres joined him.

Cruz was happy to see that not included in the agreement.

“We got what we were looking for,” he said. “We spoke about our experiences and why it was important.”

Free agent Jose Bautista predicted signings and trades would pick up next week at the Winter Meetings now that an agreement is in place.

Wrong number

As part of their retirement gift to Ortiz on Sept. 22, the Orioles presented him with the dugout phone box he shattered in 2013. Jones, who presented the phone, wondered for a few seconds if an unamused Ortiz would leave the field. “I didn’t really like that either,” he said. “I think we could have done a little bit more. When I got to him he had choice words.” . . . Mookie Betts hit .408 with nine homers and 21 RBIs in 19 games against the Orioles last season. “We need to put one in his ribs,” said Jones, who was joking. “Just put one in his ribs. Get him off the plate.” Jones is a fan of Betts. “We’re not the only team he took. He’s 23 with hands, lightning-fast hands and he plays the game right,” he said.


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