NEW YORK: When it came to the subject of 21-year-old Indians shortstop Jose Ramirez’s range, second baseman Jason Kipnis resisted the temptation to say what he was thinking.
“He’s not bad . . . he’s not bad,” Kipnis said Sunday. “We were . . . I’ll just leave it at that. I was going to go off on someone else.”
Presumably, the comparison Kipnis nearly made would have been favorable to Ramirez. As the Indians took two of three games in a road series against the New York Yankees that concluded Sunday, Ramirez impressed his Tribe teammates and manager.
His best day came in Saturday’s 3-0 victory, when Ramirez hit his first career home run, a two-run shot to right field in the second inning, and went 3 for 4.
“Of course I can have a much better game than this one. I can absolutely play better than that,” Ramirez said through an interpreter afterward.
“He’s an exciting guy to watch,” Indians ace right-hander Corey Kluber said. “That’s got to be a cool moment for him to hit his first home run at Yankee Stadium. He makes them look routine, but there’s some very difficult plays he makes at shortstop. He’s got a lot of range, he’s got a good arm.”
In Sunday’s 4-1 victory, Ramirez contributed in a different way. He came through with two sacrifice bunts and both times Kipnis, the man he advanced, scored.
With five family members from the Dominican Republic, including his parents, watching in Yankee Stadium, Ramirez went 4 for 10 in the series.
Ramirez has started every game since shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was traded to the Washington Nationals on July 31. In those 11 games, he’s committed two errors. In 15 games at shortstop (including 14 starts) for the Tribe in 2014, Ramirez has compiled a fielding percentage of .969.
Ramirez has made a strong impression on Indians manager Terry Francona. Ramirez may have convinced some in the organization that he’s not just holding the spot until prized shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor is deemed ready for the major leagues.
“I’ve been really impressed with his range at short,” Francona said Saturday. “He’s gotten to several balls up the middle.”
Francona cited a throw Ramirez made in the recent home series against the Texas Rangers on a ball hit by 33-year-old right fielder Alex Rios.
“I’ve been impressed with his clock because he really doesn’t know the league that well yet,” Francona said of Ramirez. “The other day Rios didn’t get out of the box very well. Ramirez not only caught the ball, but he knew Rios wasn’t running.”
Kipnis saw the success Ramirez had against the Yankees as a sign he’s finally settling in after being recalled from Triple-A Columbus on July 23.
“When anybody gets called up, they have the adjustment period where you just need a little bit of success to slow the game down,” Kipnis said. “I think he’s finally got that, he’s starting to gain confidence at the plate. He can handle the bat, a switch-hitter, bunt, he can run around the bases, too. He brings a lot to the table.”
An indication that Ramirez is part of the Indians’ future plans is Francona’s revelation that the organization has been encouraging him to learn English. Francona said the Indians had a setup in the minor leagues in which reliever Shaun Marcum, now at Triple-A, worked with Ramirez every night.
“It’s really hard to communicate with him,” Francona said of Ramirez. “The other day I was taking him out of the game on a double switch and he didn’t understand; Carlos [Santana] had to tell him. He worked hard when he was in Triple-A. We’re trying to do it now. The better he does, he’ll be surprised the earlier things come to him, getting signs, communicating with teammates.
“We’re trying as an organization to make it a priority for him.”
The Indians are not just getting tutoring for Ramirez for his sake.
“To get to know guys, you get to know their personality — we like that,” Francona said, lamenting the lack of interaction with Ramirez. “So we’re working on it.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.