Los Angeles Dodgers: Hanley Ramirez Injury Changes Opening Day Plans


Mar 19, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Dominican Republic designated hitter Hanley Ramirez (13) loses the bat on the swing against Puerto Rico during the first inning of the World Baseball Classic championship at AT

The baseball powerhouse that is the Dominican Republic went on to sweep their 8th straight game to win the World Baseball Classic on a cold and rainy Tuesday in San Francisco. If AT&T park hadn’t been the site of enough Dodger nightmares in the last 3 seasons, let’s add one more straw to the proverbial camel’s back. Hanley Ramirez is now headed to Camelback (Ranch) to have an MRI on his thumb which he injured diving for a ground ball in the third inning of the contest against Puerto Rico. Ramirez singled in the fourth, but would leave the game in the fifth.

The Dodgers wanted their opening day shortstop to improve his fielding at that position after playing most of last season at third base. But due to offseason injuries, and dodging spring training at the WBC where Jose Reyes played to his left at shortstop, Hanley has had almost none of the practice at shortstop that the organization desired. Headed into this season of high expectations the Dodgers expected to be a little in the hole at shortstop defensively—it’s beginning to look more like one of those Floridian sink holes.

If Hanley is forced to miss more time, including Opening Day and beyond, the Dodgers have no attractive options. Although he has the potential to be a game changer, 2012’s mostly disappointing opening day starter at short and lead off, Dee Gordon, will get the nod again. It was a lot to ask the inexperienced shortstop to take over those two very important roles last year, either way Gordon left plenty to be desired.

Feb 28, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon (9) reacts after watching a called third strike to end the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Adding Gordon does not improve the defense either, it hurts it. Dee Gordon brings his 18 errors in 2012 to this area of concern for the club, which was twice as much as the next most amount of errors on the team. The Dodgers could move the sure-handed and crowd favorite Luis Cruz from third over to short, but there are no winners in the 3rd base by committee between Jerry Hairston, Elian Herrera, Alfredo Amezega, and (gulp) Juan Uribe, depending on who makes the final roster.

Dee Gordon would benefit from getting everyday game practice at AAA rather than starting with the pressure cooker which will be LA in 2013. The Dodgers should move Cruz over. His range isn’t great, but it’s better than re-compromising the development of Gordon.

As for the offense, the Dodger’s lineup will miss Ramirez power in the middle of the lineup as well. With Ramirez the Dodgers have the most potent lineup in the National League. In 8 games in the WBC, Ramirez hit 2 home runs to propel him to 11 total bases. Dee Gordon is unlikely to hit the ball out of the infield, let alone Dodger Stadium. The Dodger’s deep, but unpredictable pitching staff will have to carry the team without Hanley. If this team did’;t have enough pressure and expectations, this one injury heaps more pressure on the remaining players.

I don’t think the MLB clubs should be able to step in and make the kind of decisions the Mets did in holding out David Wright. But the Dodgers certainly have a gripe that their concession in their seasonal preparations letting Hanley play in the WBC backfired. They couldn’t intervene in a mid-game play obviously. But it’t easy to be upset over an avoidable injury.

This will not be the last injury to the Dodgers this season, but Hanley was one player they already viewed as behind the curve, and it looks like it will continue to be that way.