The Indians are expected to activate infielder Jose Ramirez from the injured list on Tuesday, manager Terry Francona told reporters this weekend (link via Mandy Bell of MLB.com). He’s been out since Aug. 26 due to a fractured hamate hook in his right hand, but he’ll beat even the optimistic end of his initially projected recovery period (five to seven weeks).
A healthy Ramirez — or even a mostly healthy Ramirez — will be a notable jolt to an Indians lineup that has been utilizing Mike Freeman, Ryan Flaherty, Andrew Velazquez and Yu Chang in the infield with both Ramirez and Jason Kipnis sidelined. (Kipnis suffered a hamate fracture of his own last week and will undergo surgery tomorrow.) While Ramirez started the season in a dreadful slump, he heated up along with the weather and has turned in a sensational .313/.360/.643 with 16 home runs, 22 doubles and three triples in 253 plate appearances since seeing his OPS bottom out at .586 in mid-June. In fairness to Freeman, he’s certainly held his own at the dish (.269/.366/.391 in 192 plate appearances), but few can stack up against Ramirez when he’s at his best.
Ramirez has experience at second base, but Francona was clear about the fact that he’ll remain at third base once he returns. “When he comes back, we’ll have six games left,” Francona said. “We’re just going to leave him right at third. That’s a big ask. That’s another transition that we don’t need to do.”
With the Twins’ magic number down to three and six game remaining, the Indians are in a virtual Wild-Card-or-bust scenario. They’re two games behind the A’s for top Wild Card billing and currently in a tie (92-64) with the Rays for the second spot. The Indians will finish out the year with three games in Chicago against the White Sox and three in D.C. against the Nationals. The Rays, meanwhile, have one more game to host against the Red Sox, two to host against the Yankees and will finish the year with a three-game set in Toronto. Oakland has two road games against the Halos and four in Seattle. The Twins play three in Detroit followed by three in Kansas City.