It’s reached the juncture, again, where Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez is being propped up by shoulder injections. The Dodgers seem to think that last night’s injection hit the correct spot. Time will tell.
On Friday, for the fourth time in the last five games, Ramirez wasn’t in the Dodgers’ lineup. Miguel Rojas was. Ramirez’s health seems to be stuck on day-to-day, so it’s worth examining where his backups stand in what’s become a competition for fairly regular playing time.
Rojas is batting .232 in 30 games. That breaks down to some interesting splits: A right-handed hitter, Rojas is hitting .283 (15 for 53) against right-handed pitchers, including his first career home run against Max Scherzer in Detroit on Wednesday. He has one hit in 16 at-bats (.063) against lefties.
More than his bat, Rojas is here for his defense. In terms of Ultimate Zone Rating — small sample size caveat included — Rojas has already established himself as the team’s best defender at second base and third base. Only Erisbel Arruebarrena has posted a higher UZR among Dodger shortstops this season.
“We’ve known coming into spring training this guy could flat-out pick it,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of Rojas. “He can play short, he can play second, he can play third. Erisbel’s played other places, but he’s primarily a shortstop. So is Miguel. But I think the fact that Miguel can play all over the places gives him value.”
Arruebarrena is on the disabled list with a right hip flexor strain. He can be activated July 20.
At the time he went on the DL, Arruebarrena was batting .357 (25 for 70) at Triple-A Albuquerque. Signed to a five-year, $25 million contract last October, he could conceivably be the Dodgers’ starting shortstop next year if Ramirez isn’t re-signed.
But in the short term, the choice to back up Ramirez isn’t as clear. Carlos Triunfel is batting .143 with two errors in 14 chances at shortstop, but Mattingly wouldn’t single out any one player as having the “edge” to back up Ramirez — however long it takes him to recover.
“To me all three of the guys — Carlos (Triunfel) too picks it all three spots so you feel like you’re not losing anything defensively any way you go,” Mattingly said. “The one thing with all those guys, Hanley’s an offensive shortstop. He’s a guy that nobody matches if he’s playing 140, 150 games. Nobody matches his offense at short. It’s just a different animal with Erisbel, those guys. Trying to grade those guys one to the other, they’re all pretty good. Right now we’re splitting hairs to say which one’s the best or who’s earned what. We’ve seen Erisbel a little bit, he does everything a little bit. He’s been flawless when he played. Miguel’s played really well since he’s been in there. Carlos has been for the most part solid. he had the one game where he was a little rough here at the stadium but for the most part he’s been pretty good.”
Really, the trio isn’t trying to replace Ramirez so much as Justin Turner. On the disabled list since June 29 with a strained left hamstring, Turner is currently rehabbing in Arizona, “getting 10, 12 at-bats a day so you can keep the guy sharp,” Mattingly said.
Chone Figgins is also a versatile backup when healthy, but he’s still working his way back from a left hip flexor injury. The 36-year-old reported no pain one day after running the bases at full speed for the first time Thursday. However, Figgins said he felt a “grabbing” sensation when he tries to break into a full sprint. That could keep him from stealing a base, but both he and Mattingly said Figgins remains “close” to beginning a minor-league rehab assignment.