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Alexei Ramirez moving past year of grief, gaffes

Updated: April 17, 2014 6:41AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — It would be easy for Alexei Ramirez to use personal tragedy as an excuse for his poor defensive performance last season.

To his credit, the White Sox shortstop isn’t using it, even though he remains profoundly shaken by the murder of his father-in-law in Miami while the Sox were in spring training last year. And he won’t say the emotional fallout from that had anything to do with the career-high 22 errors he made last year.

‘‘I went through some tough family things, and I did the best I could,’’ the 32-year-old Cuban, entering his seventh season with the Sox, said through a translator. ‘‘It is what it is. The game goes like that. I don’t think that was a source of any major problems, though.’’

A correlation was made between the tragedy and Ramirez’s defense, but Ramirez knows that he’s in the big leagues and that he’s expected to perform regardless of anything short of injury. Besides, he’s not the only player to deal with blind-side, painful hits. Teammate Daniel Webb’s mother, who was 54, died Feb. 27. Players deal with all sorts of family, personal and financial problems every day, just like everyone else.

But still.

‘‘That person who passed away was like my dad,’’ Ramirez said. ‘‘He helped me with a lot of things. Had he died naturally, that would have been one thing. But the way it happened, it’s always there. It’s always there.’’

A year removed from all of that, this would be a good time for Ramirez to separate himself from a poor performance that was at the epicenter of the Sox’ woeful defensive problems. Sox coaches would like to see Ramirez do more of the little things other shortstops probably do better, such as positioning, communicating and taking a bigger leadership role on the field. But most of all, they want Ramirez’s exceptional talent to shine again.

‘‘I want him to be Alexei Ramirez,’’ said Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing, who works directly with the infielders. ‘‘I mean, no more than that. When you try to be more or be somebody else, then the best isn’t going to come out of that individual. We just want him to go out and be Alexei Ramirez because that’s a talented shortstop and a pretty good one.’’

Ramirez’s range and arm are All-Star-caliber, and he played in 156 games or more for the fourth straight year, so he’s durable. He is a former Silver Slugger winner, so his offense is proven. While his six homers fell well short of the 21, 15, 18 and 15 he cracked over his first four years, his offensive numbers last season weren’t bad. He recorded career highs in doubles (39) and stolen bases (30) and batted .284, his highest number since his rookie season.

Overall, because of his defense at his crucial position, Ramirez views 2013 as a bust. He said he’s making adjustments and working on ‘‘little things’’ this spring, both offensively and defensively.

‘‘What happened last year happened, and I feel like I learned from that,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s past. That was last year.’’

‘‘It goes back to trying to do more,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘You don’t want to make the error, and when you don’t want to make the error, you’re going to make the error, instead of going out and playing the game the way you’ve played it since you were 4 or 5 years old. But when you try to do more, more usually equals less in baseball.

‘‘When you’re in this game you get humbled a lot. And you learn from it. Everybody is going to go through stretches where you have a tough year. He had one last year, and I think he learned from it and he’s moved forward.’’

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: CST_soxvan



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