This morning after I heard the news that our starting shortstop Hanley Ramirez was going to have to undergo surgery on his thumb Friday and will have to miss two months of baseball activity, I was overcome with feelings of disappointment, a little bit of anger, and a lot of frustration.
Mar 14, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Dominican Republic designated hitter Hanley Ramirez (top) celebrates with third baseman Erick Aybar (2) who scored a run in the ninth inning against the United States during the World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park. The Dominican Republic won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Before the World Baseball Classic had even started, I read a lot of commentary from those who opposed the usage of Major Leaguers in the tournament due to the chance of injury and also the missed Spring Training time. The Dodgers wanted Hanley to spend as much time at shortstop brushing up on his defense this winter, yet he instead was the designated hitter or third baseman in the WBC. I feared that Hanley may be rusty at short once he returned to camp and even for the start of the season, but the upside to that was having Hanley’s bat in the Dodgers lineup for the entire season. After all he was slugging homeruns for Team Dominican throughout the Classic, and it was looking like Hanley’s 2013 season with the Dodgers was very promising.
The cursed thumb ligament. What is with our shortstops tearing their thumb ligament? Dee Gordon suffered the same injury last season while sliding into and stealing third base last Fourth of July. Gordon subsequently had to have surgery, and he didn’t return to the club until September 11th. By that time, the Dodgers had already acquired Hanley Ramirez to play shortstop. Gordon was out for more than two months, so it is possible that Hanley will miss as much time as Gordon did. Will the Dodgers revert back to Gordon for their shortstop needs? Or will they instead rotate amongst the bench until Hanley’s return?
The problem lies in the fact that by the time Hanley returns and rehabs, it will have been around eight months since he last played at shortstop. Ned Colletti said on Thursday that he will not seek a replacement in a trade, and that Ramirez is expected to be the shortstop when he returns. Is this the best idea? Dee Gordon has been viewed as the future shortstop for the Dodgers, and with Ramirez injured and having been unable to play shortstop for many months, perhaps it is time to slide Hanley to third base and go with Gordon at shortstop.
Don Mattingly could use Luis Cruz at shortstop and either Juan Uribe, Nick Punto, or Jerry Hairston Jr. at third base in the meantime. This is not the optimal solution. Gordon could benefit from the playing time, and the alternative which is having Gordon play in Albuquerque isn’t anymore developmentally beneficial for the young speedster. At least with Gordon on the big club, we can utilize his speed in the lineup while Hanley is out. After all, we also lose Hanley’s bat and speed while he’s gone. Punto, JHair, and Uribe are all slow as molasses.
This will be the first Opening Day that Hanley Ramirez has missed in eight Major League seasons. Hanley said “it’s very disappointing,” but he also said “you have to stay positive.”
I admittedly felt defeated even though the season hasn’t even begun yet. After the devastating injury to Matt Kemp last season along with the multitude of injuries the Dodgers had last year, Hanley’s pre-season injury seemed to hit me hard. I was really looking forward to an Opening Day lineup which included Kemp, Ethier, Ramirez, and Gonzalez. Hanley had at one time been a batting champion, and I had high hopes that this fresh start in Los Angeles and his return to his natural position could bring back that former franchise player whom the Marlins had at one time prized.
We can’t let this bump in the road derail us from getting hyped for Opening Day. We still have a much improved ball club with a bright outlook. It’s a team effort, and perhaps this is the first test of this 2013 team’s chemistry. Hanley will be back in a couple of months, and by that time we will be decisively in first place.