Posted on September 24, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
With six games left in the regular season, the Cleveland Indians have added a vital piece of the puzzle for the final playoff push. Prior to Tuesday’s game with the White Sox, the Indians activated third baseman Jose Ramirez from the Injured List. Ramirez has been out since late August after breaking the hamate bone in his right hand. But he’s been cleared to play and intent on helping the Indians get back to the postseason.
Despite not having a chance to play in any minor league rehab games before returning, Ramirez has checked all the medical boxes in order to suit up for the Indians. Exactly one month after suffering the injury, his hand has healed. Ramirez faced live pitching over the weekend and has done ground ball work to get himself ready to play the field. The Indians are satisfied that Ramirez won’t make his injury any worse, allowing him to return to the lineup for Tuesday’s game.
“He says right now, he feels better than he did when he got checked in New York [on Aug. 15],” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “They gave him some kind of a little splint and he hit two home runs that day. And he goes, ‘I feel better now than I did then.’ So I think that’s good news.”
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Obviously, the dream scenario for the Indians would be Ramirez picking up where he left off before the injury. Despite modest numbers on the season, Ramirez had been hitting .313 with an OPS of 1.003 in the 59 games that preceded the injury. Without any rehab games, it’ll be hard for Ramirez to hit the ground running in his return. But his mere presence has a chance to give Cleveland a lift.
One question that Francona was quick to answer on Tuesday was that Ramirez would play at third base the final week of the season. The Indians also lost second baseman Jason Kipnis to a broken hamate bone earlier this month. Ramirez is versatile enough to slide over to second base if necessary. But Francona says he will remain at third base with Mike Freeman likely to continue seeing most of the playing time at second base.
“We’re just going to leave him right at third,” Francona said when asked. “That’s a big ask. That’s another transition that we don’t need to do.”
As it stands, the Indians have slim odds of catching the Twins atop the AL Central standings. However, Cleveland began Tuesday half a game behind the Rays for the second Wild Card spot and two games behind Oakland for the top Wild Card spot. They will play three games against the White Sox and three games against the Nationals to close out the season.
Obviously, the Indians need to win as many games as possible during the final week of the season. It’s also likely that they’ll need some outside help to reach the postseason. On the surface, it seems unlikely that Ramirez can return from a month out with a hand injury and make a meaningful difference with no preparation outside of a little extra batting practice. But for the Indians, bringing Ramirez back for six games is worth a shot. He’s one of Cleveland’s most important players, and you can’t blame the Indians for wanting to sink or swim down the stretch with Ramirez in the lineup.