J-Ram back to taking BP as he eyes early return

September 19th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- The rumors have started to spread that José Ramírez could be back with the Tribe as early as next week in Chicago, but manager Terry Francona isn’t ready to reveal any expectations.

The Indians' third baseman underwent surgery on the hamate bone in his right hand on Aug. 26 after fracturing it on a swing and miss two days prior. He was given a timetable to return of Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, but in less than a month, Ramírez is already back to taking batting practice on the field.

Before Thursday’s series finale against the Tigers, the former MVP candidate joined his teammates on the diamond, hitting from both sides of the plate and fielding ground balls at third base. Could he return before Oct. 1?

“He’s going to take BP on the field today,” Francona said. “He’s run the bases, he’s taken ground balls, but you’ve gotten a little ahead of us.”

There’s no secret that the Indians could use the slugger’s bat back in the lineup, especially after the loss of second baseman Jason Kipnis to yet another hamate bone fracture. And don’t let his .254/.325/.463 slash line fool you: After a slow start to the year, Ramírez hit .313 with a 1.003 OPS in his last 60 games before he landed on the injured list. But if he does return, it could be a challenge for him to pick up where he left off after missing the last month of games.

“I guess it’s not fair to expect him back,” Francona said Wednesday. “I think as long as he seems to be trying his [butt] off to come back, we’d like to leave it open for him. That’s probably the best way I can put it.”

Hand and Kluber continue to progress

On Wednesday, closer Brad Hand (arm fatigue) threw his first bullpen since getting an MRI while the team was in Los Angeles last week. Francona said the lefty’s arm slot was back up to where it normally was after it started to drop in his last few appearances. He was expected to play catch on flat ground Thursday.

“His bullpen was really good,” Francona said. “The bouncing back part is what’s been the issue the past couple of weeks. We’re going to see how he throws, and then we’re going to go back and meet with the trainers and [pitching coach] Carl [Willis] and map out what’s next. But we’ve got to see how he feels first.”

Along with Hand, Corey Kluber, who fractured his right forearm on May 1 and suffered an oblique setback on Aug. 18, played catch Thursday at 120 feet.

This date in Indians history

1976: Ray Fosse hit a walk-off RBI single in the 13th inning to beat Baltimore, 3-2, and sweep the doubleheader that day.