Needing surgery, Hanley out for two months
After dive in Classic final, MRI exam on right thumb reveals torn ligament
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After learning that Hanley Ramirez will be sidelined for two months with a torn right thumb ligament, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Thursday that he won't seek a replacement in a trade, and he expects Ramirez to be the shortstop when he returns.
Dr. Steven Shin will perform surgery on Ramirez on Friday in Los Angeles. The thumb will be immobilized for three weeks, and Ramirez is expected to return to competition in eight weeks, according to the club.
An MRI exam taken on Wednesday night revealed the ligament tear, which Ramirez sustained on Tuesday night when diving for a ground ball while playing third base in the Dominican Republic's 3-0 victory over Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic final.
"It's bad; it's bad," said Ramirez. "It's something I can't control. It could happen anywhere. Unfortunately, it happened in the WBC. It's very disappointing."
Colletti said the Dodgers plan to use either Dee Gordon or Luis Cruz at shortstop in the interim, depending on what they show between now and Opening Day. If Cruz gets the call and vacates third base, a rotation of Juan Uribe, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston would fill in there.
Justin Sellers, optioned out Tuesday, is probably the most pure defensive shortstop with big league experience, but he was hitting only .150. Then in Minor League camp is Miguel Rojas, a virtual unknown who was formerly in the Reds' organization. Dodgers veterans, seeing Rojas in a few Major League games this spring and during infield drills, have compared him to Omar Vizquel for his quick hands and slick defensive ability. But Rojas has never played in the Major Leagues and has a .240 career Minor League batting average.
"At least we've got some depth," said Colletti. "Things happen all the time. Injuries happen to teams all the time. We have to play without him for eight weeks. I think our offense is still good. I think we've got people that can play shortstop. There's nothing more we can do about it. We're covered. I know we have players who can play."
Colletti said he would have considered trading for a replacement if Ramirez would have been out all year.
Manager Don Mattingly was hesitant to anoint Gordon the replacement, because this was the season management hoped to get Gordon back on a developmental track after rushing him to the big leagues last year.
"Having an original plan where we're trying to develop a guy and get him back to where we think he can be," said Mattingly. "Then all of a sudden, you try to totally change gears on the spur of the moment. You should at least take a couple seconds, try to think about it and what's the best thing for everybody.
"I'm not comfortable with anything going on at shortstop right now. Am I going to be comfortable in eight weeks with a guy who hasn't played if it's a mess there? It depends what his work looks like I guess. Is he going to be able to get tons of work and make us say he looks great still? Then you play in rehab games and that looks great. But again we're in hypotheticals."
Ramirez explained that the injury occurred as he dove to his left for a ground ball, his right thumb sticking in the infield grass and bending backward away from his hand, tearing the ligament. Doctors told Ramirez that the surgery had a "99 percent" chance of success.
Ramirez said that immediately after the play, he didn't think it was this bad, "maybe because I was warm." He even batted and hit a single before coming out of the game as the pain increased.
Before hearing the results of the MRI exam, Ramirez was hopeful he could avoid surgery. He said he had never previously injured the thumb and that this would be the first Opening Day he's missed in eight Major League seasons.
"I was hoping to play through it," Ramirez said. "Sometimes, you play with pain. But not any chance I can do that."
The injury is similar to one sustained last year by Gordon, who tore ligaments and dislocated his right thumb after diving headfirst into third base. That injury also required surgery and a two-month rehab, and it created an opening that the Dodgers filled by trading for Ramirez.
"I got a chance to talk to Dee, and he told me everything would be fine," said Ramirez. "It'll feel a little weird after surgery, and [it'll be] hard beginning to throw the ball. After that, everything will be better."
Ramirez, as did Gordon, will be able to continue conditioning work after the operation. After three weeks, the cast will be removed and Ramirez will resume baseball activities such as throwing and hitting.
Ramirez answered complaints that his injury is an indictment on stars playing in the Classic.
"It could have happened anywhere," Ramirez said. "It could happen at Spring Training, in BP. Everything is not negative in life. You have to stay positive.
"This is my main thing, the Los Angeles Dodgers, even though I played in the WBC, represented my country. It was an honor. At the same time, this is my team. This is not easy. It's going to be tough, but what can we do? There are a lot of guys that can do a lot of damage on this team."
The Dodgers, planning to have Ramirez start at shortstop this year, had hoped he would not play third base in the tournament. A former All-Star shortstop, Ramirez was moved to third base by the Marlins, and the Dodgers have been determined to move him back to shortstop.
Ramirez, his hand and wrist in a black brace, said he had been taking pregame ground balls exclusively at shortstop throughout the tournament.
"I did too much work here before I left to not keep getting better and not go backward," Ramirez said.
Ramirez will earn $15.5 million this season, and there is separate insurance coverage on players who participated in the World Baseball Classic.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.