TUCSON — Hanley Ramirez will undergo surgery in Los Angeles on Friday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb that he sustained in the final game of the World Baseball Classic, meaning that the Dodgers will be without their starting shortstop until mid-May.
The WBC should have been one of the highlights in the career of Ramirez, a three-time All-Star who played for the tournament champion, the Dominican Republic. In Ramirez's home country, Tuesday's championship game against Puerto Rico was the most-viewed sporting event in at least a decade, according to Major League Baseball.
But instead of basking in the first notable team title of his seven-year career, Ramirez returned to the Dodgers' spring-training complex in Phoenix on Thursday and was on the defensive speaking with reporters. He described what happened to him as a freak accident.
"It could've happened anywhere," said Ramirez, who jammed his thumb while trying to make a diving defensive play. "It could've happened here. It unfortunately happened in the WBC. It's very disappointing."
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly and General Manager Ned Colletti said they would continue to support the MLB-created WBC tournament.
"You kind of go back to what the WBC's intended for and that's to promote baseball everywhere," Mattingly said. "I think it does that. The tournament, for me, was great. I enjoyed watching the tournament."
But the price of that viewing pleasure will be steep for Mattingly, who will now sort through some uninspiring options on the left side of his infield that include Juan Uribe and Dee Gordon.
"To be honest with you, I'm not comfortable with anything that's going on at short right now," Mattingly said.
Mattingly's initial instinct would move Luis Cruz from third base to shortstop. That option could result in Uribe's receiving more playing time at third base, perhaps even starting on opening day. Uribe is hitting .350 this spring but batted only .199 in his previous two seasons for the Dodgers. Uribe would be part of a rotation at third base that could also include Jerry Hairston Jr. and Nick Punto.
The only viable shortstop candidate other than Cruz is Gordon, who started last year on opening day but batted only .228 in a season that was interrupted by surgery on his thumb.
Colletti said he isn't looking to trade for a shortstop. He also doesn't plan to make another call to Scott Rolen, whom he failed to sign in the off-season. Rolen, a 37-year-old former All-Star third baseman, remains a free agent.
Colletti said Ramirez would be the starting shortstop when he returns. Mattingly sounded considerably less certain.
Ramirez spent most of last season playing third base for the Miami Marlins and didn't play shortstop in the Dominican winter league. Though he looked sharp in early spring workouts, Ramirez played only 25 innings at the position before leaving for the WBC. He was a designated hitter and third baseman for the Dominican Republic.
Ramirez's injury cost the Dodgers not only their starting shortstop, but also their No. 5 hitter. The former batting champion hit only .252 over the last two seasons but still slugged 24 home runs in 2012, which was considered a down year.
Mattingly didn't sound inclined to replace that production by including outfield prospect Yasiel Puig on the major league roster. Mattingly said that he considered Ramirez's loss primarily a defensive one and that he doesn't intend to make up for lost defense with increased offense.
Even without Ramirez, the Dodgers feel good about their lineup. The middle of their order includes three former All-Stars in Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier.
"It's an unfortunate situation to lose a big guy in your lineup," Kemp said. "We have to hold it down until he gets back. We still have a lot of great hitters on the team."