Dodgers not short on options to replace Hanley
Torn ligament may sideline shortstop for two months, but others can fill shoes
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Fans being fans, passionate to the edge of radioactivity at times, blame is sure to fall squarely on the World Baseball Classic in some precincts of the Dodger Nation over the loss of Hanley Ramirez for roughly a quarter of the 2013 season. Surgery is required to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.
Ramirez, one of the big guns in the Dodgers' attack, was diving for a ground ball through the left side of the infield in Tuesday night's championship game when he jammed the thumb into the infield grass at AT&T Park. Ramirez was playing third base with Jose Reyes at shortstop for the Dominican Republic, which went on to celebrate its first Classic championship with a 3-0 victory over Puerto Rico.
A gold medal around his neck, Ramirez was as thrilled as his teammates in the afterglow of an achievement that was hailed in their homeland as the biggest sports moment in the country's history.
Returning to camp on Wednesday, Ramirez got the bad news, leaving manager Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti to address how they'll replace their shortstop. They are not without options, having created quality depth throughout the roster.
"Obviously," Mattingly said Thursday morning, this is "not the news we wanted to hear. We haven't made a decision yet on who will be the shortstop. We're going to think over our options and do what's best for everyone. From what I understand, it's eight weeks until [Ramirez is back] playing up here."
This was the third Classic and the first won by a team other than Japan. It won't surface again until 2017.
"It's still a great tournament," Mattingly said. "It helps promote the game. It sours us a little bit to have a guy get hurt, but there's nothing we can do. Selfishly, we all want our guys in camp, but if this had been around when I was playing, I would have wanted to participate."
Logic tells us that if you blame the Classic for Ramirez's injury, you'd have to blame Holman Stadium in Vero Beach, Fla., for the ruptured knee tendon suffered on a slide by Dodgers slugger Pedro Guerrero on the final day of Spring Training in 1986, coming off his greatest season.
When Angels leadoff catalyst Chone Figgins fractured two fingers fielding a ground ball at third base early in Spring Training in 2007, nobody went off on a rant against Tempe Diablo Stadium.
The point is, injuries happen, anywhere and everywhere. Managers learn to deal with bad breaks and move on, quickly.
Ramirez just as easily could have damaged his thumb diving for a ground ball or sliding into a base at Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers' spring home. It just happened to come in the grand finale of an event that captivated fans from the Far East to the Caribbean.
While there is no shortage of healthy athletes in the Dodgers' clubhouse who would love to handle Ramirez's position, Colletti said the club initially will go with Dee Gordon and Luis Cruz at shortstop. The GM added that no trades are planned to fill the void.
Gordon, trying to come back from a frustrating 2012 season after a brilliant '11 debut, is having a good spring -- his recent sprained ankle notwithstanding -- and has shown improved discipline at the plate. He's one of the fastest players in the game with excellent tools.
Cruz, arguably the Dodgers' best clutch hitter last season, excelled at third base with the glove, but has played shortstop extensively in his Minor League career. When he's at shortstop, the Dodgers can go with established veterans Juan Uribe, Nick Punto or Jerry Hairston Jr. at third base.
Uribe, who earned World Series championship rings with the 2010 Giants and '05 White Sox, has had a stellar spring with the bat after hitting .191 in 162 at-bats last season for the Dodgers.
Punto, who arrived in the blockbuster deal with Boston last August, has a World Series ring to show for his contributions to the 2011 Cardinals, for whom he hit .278 with a .388 on-base percentage. In 43 plate appearances with the Dodgers after the trade, he hit .286 with a .390 OBP.
Hairston, a 2009 World Series champion with the Yankees, is a .259 career hitter who has excelled in the postseason. He batted a combined .362 in 54 at-bats for the Yanks in '09 and the '11 Brewers.
Skip Schumaker is another multi-position player on the roster with championship experience in St. Louis. He's a .278 postseason hitter in 38 plate appearances for the Cards in 2009, '11 and '12.
Justin Sellers is considered a plus defender at shortstop, steady and capable, but he has struggled offensively, hitting .204 in 189 plate appearances for the Dodgers the past two seasons. But that's a small sample size, and rare is the player who can thrive with occasional at-bats. There was only one Manny Mota.
The Dodgers have the weaponry to score enough runs to compensate for diminished offensive production at shortstop. The history books and stat-driven websites are filled with teams that have won championships with weak sticks at this defense-first position.
Ramirez is an exceptional talent, but this is not a mortal blow to a club with the assets the Dodgers have accumulated in the dawn of the Guggenheim Partners era.