The Dodgers’ Opening Day plans took a big hit this week after shortstop Hanley Ramirez underwent surgery Friday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.
Ramirez suffered the injury earlier in the week playing for the Dominican Republic against Puerto Rico in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic.
The 29-year old is expected to miss eight weeks.
And while this would seem to feed into the opinions of those “I told you so” pundits who loath all things WBC, Ramirez and Dodger manager Don Mattingly weren’t having any part of that.
“It’s something I can’t control,” Ramirez told reporters at the Dodger spring training camp in Glendale, Az. ”It could’ve happened anywhere. It could’ve happened here. It unfortunately happened in the WBC. It’s very disappointing.”
Added Mattingly, “You’ve got to go back to what the WBC is all about. Just because one of our guys gets hurt, doesn’t change that,” he said. “The tournament, to me, was great, totally cool.”
So what’s the Dodgers’ next move? Who plays shortstop?
This is the part of the story that gets really ugly.
The choice at shortstop is between Dee Gordon and Luis Cruz. Gordon was slated to return to Triple-A Albuquerque before Ramirez was injured. After hitting .228 with 32 steals in 87 games last season, the 24-year old son of former Red Sox pitcher Tom Gordon is hitting only .226 in 31 at-bats this spring. He has 7 steals and has not been caught thus far.
Cruz played in 78 games last year with the Dodgers, 51 of those at third base. He made the most of his time, hitting a career high .297 with six home runs and 40 RBI. He’s had a monster spring, hitting .309 with four homers, and hit .286 while playing for Mexico (with Dodger teammate Adrian Gonzalez) in the WBC.
Should Cruz end up playing short in Ramirez’ absence, the Dodgers’ options to start the season at third base are Juan Uribe, Nick Punto, and Jerry Hairston, Jr.
Told ya it was ugly.
Uribe just might be the most blessed man in baseball, having won World Series titles with the 2005 White Sox and the 2010 Giants. That last World Series year was Uribe’s best, as he attained career highs in homers (24) and RBI (85). The Dodgers were dumb enough to sign him to a 3-year, $21 million contact prior to the 2011 season and for all that cash, he’s played all of 143 games in two seasons, hitting .199 with 6 homers and 45 RBI.
Punto came over to the Dodgers last season in the blockbuster trade with the Red Sox along with Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. The 35-year old native of Southern California is a .247 lifetime hitter over 12 seasons.
Hairston Jr. is the prime example of a utility player. The 36-year old played six different positions in 78 games with the Dodgers in 2012, hitting .273. The Dodgers are his ninth team in 15 years.
Hurry up and heal fast, Hanley.
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