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Gordon sent down as Hanley nears return

Dodgers hope shortstop improves offense in Minor Leagues

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are close to getting shortstop Hanley Ramirez back from the disabled list, a fact that factored in to the decision to option shortstop Dee Gordon to Triple-A Albuquerque on Monday to clear a roster spot to activate utility man Jerry Hairston off the 15-day DL.

The Dodgers started Nick Punto at shortstop on Monday night at Dodger Stadium against the Angels. Meanwhile, Ramirez has begun running the bases, the final hurdle before he goes out on a rehab assignment for his hamstring pull.

By optioning Gordon, the Dodgers will use Punto and Luis Cruz at shortstop until Ramirez returns. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Ramirez could play in Minor League games by the end of the week.

"We do feel like Hanley is fairly close," Mattingly said. "He's close enough."

Gordon has options remaining, but Cruz does not, and he will have another chance to prove he's better than his .096 average. Mattingly is wary of wearing Punto down early in the season, so Cruz will spell him on occasion.

"I'm trying to basically still believe that Luis can do some things," Mattingly said. "Punto is kind of the guy that's getting two out of three [games] at short right now, and I don't know if that's the best for Dee continuing to develop."

Gordon has hit only .175 since being recalled after Ramirez was injured on May 3.

Gordon's offense has regressed since he debuted in 2011, in part because he was rushed to the Major Leagues, and in part because he missed two months last year with thumb surgery.

"I really feel like he made a lot of strides defensively," Mattingly said. "I think the offensive side of it is just going to come."

Hairston was on the DL with a groin strain and his time on the shelf was extended by knee tendinitis. He completed a rehab assignment at Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday night. Hairston started in left field on Monday.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter and Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for
Read More: Los Angeles Dodgers, Jerry Hairston, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon