|ESPN.com: Baseball||[Print without images]|
LOS ANGELES -- Hanley Ramirez didn't make an appearance inside the Los Angeles Dodgers clubhouse prior to Friday night's game against the visiting San Francisco Giants. The hot-hitting shortstop was getting an MRI on his bothersome left hamstring, which flared up again Thursday night in the series opener at Dodger Stadium.
Turned out, it's an irritated nerve in his back. Ramirez received a cortisone injection and is expected to be out until next week.
The absence of the team's most productive hitter just two weeks before the end of the regular season would have most playoff-bound managers pacing the hallways, but Don Mattingly didn't seem overly concerned as he chatted with reporters before the game, about two hours before the news of the injury was relayed from the club.
One reason Mattingly seemed at ease is the 12½-game lead the Dodgers own in the National League West entering Friday. Another is what the coaching and training staff has been seeing and hearing from Ramirez in recent weeks.
"What Hanley was telling us [Thursday] night isn't something we haven't been hearing," Mattingly said. "As the game went on he got tightness, so it was like, 'OK, we're not going to keep doing this.'"
Ramirez, who missed 28 games earlier this season with a strained left hamstring, departed Thursday's game in the sixth inning after telling trainers he felt tightness in the same area. The previous inning, he had jogged stiffly to first base after grounding to third.
"Hanley was feeling OK about everything," Mattingly said of the night before. "He didn't think anything was going on. We just wanted to be sure."
Ramirez is hitting a team-high .342 with 18 home runs and 53 RBIs in 79 games, better numbers than rookie sensation Yasiel Puig has posted in nine more games.
With the likelihood of the Dodgers clinching a playoff spot in the coming days, Mattingly saw no need to rush him back.
"Obviously, we don't want to take anything for granted, but we are sitting here with a pretty good lead," he said.
Nick Punto will fill Ramirez's role at shortstop Friday night and will remain the No. 1 defensive option while Ramirez is out. Dee Gordon will spell Punto if Ramirez is sidelined for an extended period of time, Mattingly said. Juan Uribe moved into the No. 4 spot in the batting order for Friday's game, the first time he has hit cleanup in more than three years.
The Dodgers saw another starter go down during Friday's 4-2 loss to the Giants, as outfielder Andre Ethier hobbled off the field, grimacing as he legged out a double in the eighth inning.
Afterward, the left ankle injury was downplayed by both Ethier and Mattingly. The manager said he'll probably rest Ethier after Friday's setback, an injury that initially occurred when Ethier twisted the ankle while taking a swing at Colorado earlier this month.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.