Ramirez nearing return after 'really good day'

Slugger could be back Sunday; Tribe not ready to rule out Kluber

September 21st, 2019

CLEVELAND -- When José Ramírez first fractured the hamate bone in his right hand, an Oct. 1 return sounded ambitious, but the third baseman seems ready to prove everyone wrong.

For the first time since undergoing surgery on Aug. 26, Ramírez faced live pitching at Progressive Field prior to Saturday’s game against the Phillies, checking off what could be the final box before he’s cleared to return to the Tribe. Could he be back as soon as Sunday?

“We need to get together following this and see how José feels tomorrow,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “But right now, I think everything is on the table.”

Ramírez faced both left- and right-handed pitchers, including , and took ground balls at third base before wrapping up his pregame workout.

“He felt good, so we’re right now in the process of assessing where he is now, and what the plan will be,” Antonetti said. “But hopefully in the not-too-distant future, he’ll be in action for us. Another really good day.”

After Ramirez underwent the Aug. 26 surgery, the Indians announced the following day that his timetable for a return was five-to-seven weeks -- but not many assumed that four weeks would be an option.

“We really weren’t sure what to expect,” Antonetti said. “There’s a wide variation on how quickly guys come back from hamate injuries, and obviously José seems to be on a path where he’s on the shortest end possible for that. And it’s really a testament to the way he’s attacked the rehab process, and if you talk to [the training staff], the guys who are working with him day to day, he’s worked his tail off to get to this point. He desperately wants to be back.”

What to do with the starting rotation?

The Indians haven’t yet finalized a decision on how they will handle the final series of the regular season next weekend in Washington, D.C. As of now, , and Aaron Civale are set to handle the three games in Chicago, a series that begins on Tuesday.

“We’ve talked about a lot of different options,” Antonetti said. “We’ve got three or four different options we’ve kind of laid out. I wouldn’t want to get ahead of ourselves. I think we need to share those with the players involved first before I disclose what those might be, but there are a few options based upon the [Monday] off-day on what we could do.”

The Tribe will likely be fighting for an American League Wild Card spot until the very end, meaning they have no time to save their best options for the postseason. But while they try to balance securing a playoff spot, they also have to decide if Zach Plesac, who was skipped in the team’s last turn through the rotation to help manage his workload, will make another start this season following Saturday’s outing.

“That’s something we’ll have to work through,” Antonetti said. “We still expect Zach to pitch for us, and pitch in a meaningful role. Exactly whether or not that will be as a starter, or when he’ll start, we’ll have to work through.”

Kluber update

Corey Kluber, who fractured his right forearm on May 1 and sustained a strained left oblique during his comeback effort on Aug. 18, took a day off on Saturday after extending out to long-tossing from 120 feet on Friday. The Indians aren’t quite ready to rule him out for the 2019 season.

“Yes, he could fit in,” Antonetti said. “I think how far [the season] goes obviously has an impact on that. Obviously, the longer we play, the higher the likelihood that he’ll be able to return and contribute.

“I’d love for him to be pitching Game 7 of the World Series. That’s a good outcome for us.”

This date in Indians history

1996: Tony Peña went 3-for-4 with four RBIs out of the nine-hole as the Tribe beat the Royals, 13-4.