CLEVELAND -- The Indians are hoping to have their third baseman back in the lineup on Friday in Minnesota, but the team has a backup plan if José Ramírez isn’t feeling better in the next 24 hours.
Ramírez (left thumb contusion) was able to start Wednesday’s game against the Royals because left-hander Danny Duffy was on the mound. The switch-hitter reports that he feels no discomfort when hitting from the right side of the plate. But when Duffy was pulled for a righty, Ramírez was taken out of the game to avoid aggravating his thumb while batting left-handed.
“We’re just trying to find ways, with the better treatment, [so] he can heal faster,” Indians temporary manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said. “We took him out because we didn’t want him to jam that thumb again. So that will give him the day before yesterday, yesterday and today the day off. And hopefully tomorrow he feels much better.”
The Tribe would like to have Ramírez in the lineup against the Twins -- who, entering Thursday, were tied with the Indians for second place in the American League Central -- in a crucial three-game series as they enter the final two weeks of the regular season. But if he isn’t ready to hit from the right side of the plate, he’ll at least be able to play Saturday against lefty Rich Hill.
Whether the thumb discomfort that’s been nagging Ramírez for the past few weeks has played a role in his splits against righties and lefties this year is unknown, but the numbers back up the desire to put him in the lineup to face southpaws whenever he can.
In 139 plate appearances against righties, Ramírez has hit .220 with a .721 OPS, five homers and 29 strikeouts. In 47 plate appearances against lefties, he has batted .317 with a 1.112 OPS, four homers and seven strikeouts.
The Tribe will have to wait until Friday to see if Ramírez will be ready for consistent playing time again, but the club is relieved that the only issue he's battling is swelling, rather than something more serious.
“When you have swelling, it means you have a contusion and your body is letting you know that there’s something wrong with you,” Alomar said. “We’re just trying to calm down the situation before we go back out there and decide, ‘OK, you’re ready to go.’ He’s gonna let us know. He’s normally a guy that doesn’t want to come out of the lineup, but we have to just take this chance right now and do that.”
Indians ready for Tito’s return
Since Alomar began filling in as the Tribe’s temporary manager, the team hasn’t missed a step, going 18-11 entering Thursday. He’s had the help of pitching coach Carl Willis and third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh, who moved into the dugout to assist with in-game decisions. Although it’s been running smoothly, Alomar said he’s ready for Terry Francona to return to the dugout.
“I tell Tito all the time: ‘Man, right now, we’re a car going on the highway … and we’re looking for a gas station. You are the gas station. It’s time to show up,’” Alomar said with a big laugh. “We miss him. We miss his presence. … As a student, you can only handle the substitute teacher for so long. You have to bring the real teacher [back]. It’s been fun, but I tell him all the time: ‘Get your butt back, bro.’”