Dodgers react to tough news on Hanley's injury
Players reflect on team without shortstop; Mattingly eyes replacements for season
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Don Mattingly said his first thought for replacing the injured Hanley Ramirez at shortstop is to move Luis Cruz there from third base.
Speaking after Thursday's Christina-Taylor Green charity benefit game, the Dodgers manager said he remembered the way Cruz "calmed us last year" when he took over at shortstop for Dee Gordon, who coincidentally sustained a right thumb injury very similar to the one Ramirez had Tuesday night when he dove for a grounder in the World Baseball Classic.
"He doesn't have huge range, but everything he gets to, he catches," Mattingly said of Cruz. "He has sure hands, a sure arm. He's my first thought. That gives me multiple options at third base. So without getting too deep, that's my first thought."
Cruz took over shortstop from July 5 until Aug. 3, when Ramirez assumed shortstop and Cruz slid over to third base. In those four weeks, Cruz committed only two errors and the Dodgers went 9-12.
The options at third base would be Juan Uribe, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston. Punto played shortstop Thursday and had five assists on ground balls. Mattingly said Punto played the position well, but would be more valuable remaining as a utility man.
Disabling Ramirez will open a spot for a position player on the 25-man roster. If it doesn't go to young shortstop Dee Gordon, it could go to Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig. As Mattingly pointed out before the game, however, he expects to have three healthy outfielders to start the season in Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, so getting Puig playing time won't be an easy trick.
Mattingly said he sensed disappointment from his players about the news on Ramirez, who will undergo surgery for a torn thumb ligament and be out for two months.
"Sure there's disappointment, honestly," said Mattingly. "It was like, 'Really? In the last game?' That kind of reaction."
Several of the veterans who made the trip to Tucson reflected that sentiment.
"It's a bummer," said Ethier. "We couldn't wait to get him back with us from the Classic, more to get the full team out there together, so it's disappointing from that point of view."
"It stinks," said Kemp. "To get an injury, and a freaky one like that. I'm sure he's disappointed. It's just unfortunate to lose one of the big guys in the lineup.
"We've got to hold it down until he gets back. We still have a lot of great hitters. It's a big loss, but we still will win games until he gets back."
Mark Ellis agreed with management that this year's Dodgers team is "better equipped" to withstand a key injury like Ramirez's.
"It stinks for him," said Ellis. "In camp, he looked really good. I know he worked really hard in the winter. But as a team we've got to keep going. We dealt with a lot of injuries last year, but you never use that as an excuse. We're better equipped this year.
"Obviously, we'd rather have Hanley. When he came out of the game, I knew it was bad, because he doesn't come out of games. We're going to miss him."
Catcher A.J. Ellis said it will be up to the rest of the lineup to "step up."
"Driving here with Skip [Schumaker] and Nick [Punto], we all played manager and general manager for two hours, but it's a job none of us is qualified for," A.J. said. "It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
"Every great story that's written has turmoil and drama."
Schumaker said it reminded him of the 2011 season with St. Louis, when starter Adam Wainwright was lost for the season with Tommy John surgery in Spring Training.
"It was tough, losing a guy who was a Cy Young top-three the previous two seasons," said Schumaker. "I'm not going to sugarcoat it -- Hanley is a really good player. But opportunities are created. We had guys step up, like Lance Lynn, who became an All-Star. That's what good clubs do. This just makes everyone else step up."
Ken Gurnick is reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.