CLEVELAND -- The Indians have suffered their fair share of blows this season, losing Francisco Lindor, Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco to the injured list at different points throughout the 2019 campaign. But the latest injury to José Ramírez may be the club's most difficult one to bounce back from.
The club announced on Sunday morning that the third baseman fractured his right hamate bone in Saturday night’s 4-2 win over the Royals at Progressive Field. Indians manager Terry Francona said Ramirez will undergo surgery, which will be performed by Dr. Thomas Graham in New York on Monday.
“Dr. Graham will then lay out what he thinks timetables, potential timetables,” Francona said before a 9-8 loss in 10 innings to the Royals at Progressive Field. “I’m not sure anybody’s ever going to be able to nail it exactly. But we will have a much better idea after he does the procedure.”
Ramirez doubled over in pain, grabbing his wrist, after foul-tipping a 2-0 fastball from Royals starter Glenn Sparkman. Ramirez was briefly examined on the field by head athletic trainer James Quinlan before he was removed from the game in the middle of his at-bat. At that point, the Indians had infield prospect Yu Chang pulled from Triple-A Columbus’ game and he was recalled on Sunday to replace Ramirez on the active roster. Chang went 2-for-3, including a single for his first MLB hit.
“I felt bad, especially in that situation, where the team is fighting,” Ramirez said through the team’s interpreter. “Most importantly, we need all of us to contribute, so I felt really bad when that happened.
“I really felt like something cracked when it happened, but you still try to stay optimistic and see if they can tell you better news. But I knew something was bad when it happened.”
Hamate bone fractures can keep a hitter out for an extended period, though the recovery time can range from weeks to months. They can also be tough on power hitters, as it can take a while to regain strength in the injured wrist.
Rangers slugger Joey Gallo, for one, is recovering from surgery to repair a broken hamate bone in his right wrist. He last played on July 23 (after playing through discomfort for some time) and he is expected to be out until at least mid-September.
There are plenty of other recent examples of hitters who have dealt with hamate fractures. Delino DeShields had the same surgery as Gallo last year and only missed three weeks, but Tim Tebow had his Minor League season end in late July when he broke his right hamate bone. Giancarlo Stanton missed the final three months of the 2015 season after fracturing the hamate bone in his left wrist on a swing in late June, while hitters like Nick Markakis (2012) and Troy Tulowitzki (2010) missed about six weeks with their hamate bone injuries.
Ramirez had been battling some discomfort in his right wrist for the past few weeks, but Francona said the hamate fracture was different from the pain he had previously felt.
“That’s the first thing I asked,” Francona said. “They don’t think so. I was wondering the same thing. Was he weak? This was a hamate that ... baseball players do this. The trainers and the doctor, nobody thought it was related.”
It’s hard to replace the offensive production that Ramirez has provided over the last two months. After hitting .198 through his first 66 games, the former American League MVP Award candidate found his swing, batting .313 with a 1.003 OPS in his 60 contests since.
“I feel bad for Josey,” Francona said. “There’s two ways to look at it. ... You can feel sorry for yourself, which probably doesn’t end well. Or you can choose to fight back and feel like this is our time to shine. And I would choose No. 2. I’m aware that it got more difficult. We lost a great player. That doesn’t mean you can’t win. Just makes it a little harder.”
Chang, ranked as the Tribe's No. 11 prospect by MLB Pipeline, started at third base on Sunday, though it’s likely utility man Mike Freeman will see some time there as well.
“Probably on production,” Francona said of how he’ll use his two hot corner options. “It’s not going to be a straight platoon. I don’t think that makes sense. Plus, we’ve moved Freeman around anyway. And Chang’s been moving around at Triple-A. He’s been playing three at short, three at third and three at second. So we have the ability to move guys around.
“We’ll let them know the night before and we’ll try to put two guys out there to try to take Josey’s place. Freeman’s done everything and more that we could have asked. So, I think we’ll be OK.”
The 24-year-old Chang had a .254/.323/.429 slash in 67 games for the Clippers this season. He missed time with a sprained finger, but he made his Major League debut earlier this season when Ramirez was on the paternity list.
“He hit a couple home runs three nights ago,” Francona said. “He’d been real streaky. When he gets in a good streak, it’s been really good. And then it’s been the other way, too.”