J-Ram undergoes thumb surgery, should be ready for start of '23

November 9th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- Every time José Ramírez was asked whether his right thumb was bothering him, he’d insist that he was fine. But now, it’s clear that his hand was giving him more trouble than he led on.

Ramírez underwent surgery on his right thumb on Wednesday to repair the ulnar collateral ligament. It was performed by hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham in Dayton. Cleveland’s third baseman will have a six-to-eight-week recovery period that isn’t expected to significantly impact his offseason training, and he’s planning to be ready for Spring Training.

Ramírez sustained the injury in June. When the team was in Los Angeles to play the Dodgers, he had an option to have the procedure then, but he decided it was best to wait until the offseason.

“After talking to our medical people, I was under the impression that surgery was probably what was going to happen,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said on Friday. “Joséy came in with [translator Agustin Rivero], and he said, ‘Not only am I not having surgery, but I'm playing tomorrow.’”

Playing through the pain still resulted in an American League-best 44 doubles, a career-high 126 RBIs, 29 homers and a 148 OPS+. But there were definitely some consequences that accompanied the success.

Ramírez struggled at the plate in the second half of the regular season compared to his early first-half success. He first felt soreness at the beginning of June and jammed his right thumb again over a week later during the team’s trip to Colorado. He missed back-to-back games on June 18 and 19, but he was adamant to get back in the lineup regularly for the rest of the season.

Prior to June 18, Ramírez hit .305 with a 1.039 OPS, 62 RBIs, 34 walks and just 20 strikeouts in 60 games. After he missed the two games due to the injury, he went on to hit .264 with just a .766 OPS, 64 RBIs, 35 walks and 62 strikeouts in 97 games. His strikeout rate skyrocketed while his wOBA plummeted from August to September. But what he was still able to provide outweighed any of the hindrances.

“[The doctors] said you're not going to do additional damage, it's just a question of can you perform at the level you'd want to perform with the pain that you have,” Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. "José cares, as everybody who's ever been around him knows how much he cares about playing and wants to be on the field. It's amazing to think about what he played with from that day forward.”

Despite battling the tear in his right hand, Ramírez opted to compete in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby in July, which is likely why he decided to hit from the right side of the plate to allow his injured hand to do a little less of the heavy lifting, even though he’s known to have more power from the left side. When he accepted the offer to compete, the Guardians didn’t attempt to stop him.

“How do you ask a kid not to?” Francona said. “Like, he bares his soul for our ballclub. And to be honest with you, hitting in the Home Run Derby, when he had the biggest problem was when it was cold and he got jammed. That was July, and if he got jammed in that, he probably deserved it.”

Ramírez can now take the needed time to fully heal before diving into his offseason training. And the team will expect him to report to camp in February, ready to be back in his usual form heading into 2023.

“I know people watch him and admire the way he plays,” Francona said. “I don't know if people realize quite just how tough a kid he is.”