Since the start of the second half, no team has been hotter than the Dodgers. And no player has been hotter than their shortstop, Hanley Ramirez.
With their win Thursday night the Dodgers moved to 11-2 in the 13 games since the All-Star break, thanks in no small part to their veteran shortstop. In those 13 games, Ramirez has gone 20-for-60 (.333) with 10 runs scored, three home runs and 14 RBI. The 29-year-old has also stolen three bases in that time, and 10 of his 20 hits have gone for extra bases.
Ramirez started August the way he ended July, doubling in two runs in the Dodgers' 6-4 win over the Cubs on Thursday. He wasted little time starting a new hitting streak after seeing his previous 11-game streak snapped in a loss to the Yankees the night before.
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He's at a high point right now, but it's been an up and down season for the enigmatic shortstop. Ramirez missed most of the first month of the season due to a torn ligament in his right thumb he suffered during the World Baseball Classic in March. Working back quicker than originally projected, Ramirez returned for four -- count 'em, four -- games in late April and early May before a left hamstring strain sent him back to the disabled list for another month.
Now healthy, the sky is the limit for the former Rookie of the Year. Ramirez' production lulled in 2011 and only increased slightly in 2012, leaving some to wonder if he would ever be the same player he was. But the hottest Dodger of the red-hot Dodgers is proving his best days aren't behind him yet.
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Ramirez was once the Red Sox' Shortstop of the Future. The arrival of their next Shortstop of the Future could be coming soon.
Xander Bogaerts started at third base for Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday, the sixth time he's made a start at the hot corner since the start of July. The 20-year-old was hitting .279/.383/.481 in 43 games with the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate since being promoted in mid-June.
The writing on the wall is clear. The Red Sox have been without a starting third baseman for much of the year given incumbent Will Middlebrooks' struggles, and the recent trade of de facto third baseman Jose Iglesias leaves the Red Sox with no immediate option at the position. In a dog fight with the Rays and Orioles for the top spot in the American League East, it would stand to reason that Bogaerts is being conditioned for a call-up in the coming weeks.
It would cap a meteoric rise for the Dutch prospect. Bogaerts spent much of 2012 with the Red Sox' High-A affiliate and spent only a combined 79 games with Double-A Portland between 2012 and this season. Baseball America rated Bogaerts as the 58th-best prospect in baseball before the 2012 season, elevating him to 8th-best coming into this year.
What to expect from Bogaerts if and when he's called up is hard to gauge. The recent success of fellow 20-year-olds like Bryce Harper and Jose Fernandez suggests Bogaerts won't necessarily be outclassed, but those players, while becoming more commonplace, are still the exception and not the rule. That the Red Sox were unwilling to part with him in any deal for Phillies ace Cliff Lee speaks volumes about the club's expectations for their prospect.
Bogaerts has hit for a good average with some pop in his time in the minor leagues, owning a .296/.375/.494 line in four seasons. The fact that he's been young for most of those leagues suggests he should be able to acquit himself well if called upon by the big club. He'll likely provide a decent batting average with doubles power and possibly a stolen base or two, but it's hard to project much more given the uncertainty surrounding his promotion and the volatility of such a small sample size.
When he's called up Bogaerts will be a recommended add even in mixed leagues. If he's still floating around on the waiver wire in keeper leagues, think long and hard about stashing the phenom -- if not for this year, certainly for the years to follow.
A Rehab For A-Rod
Alex Rodriguez is ramping it back up as Major League Baseball is trying to shut him down.
Rodriguez will begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton on Friday in an attempt to return from a quad injury he suffered last month, but he's also in negotiations with MLB regarding a possible suspension the league intends to hand down for his connection to the Biogenesis clinic. If Rodriguez' rehab goes well, he could be back with the Yankees by Monday.
The stay could be short-lived. MLB is still threatening a lifetime ban if A-Rod doesn't agree to a long suspension, and the latest report by ESPN's T.J. Quinn said the two sides are far apart in their negotiations. Quinn said the two sides are "stuck on Rodriguez' desire to make sure he can cash in on at least some of the remaining $100 million owed under his contract," and there's also a "wide gap between the suspension he is willing to accept and the one MLB would like to issue."
At this point in his career, the talk about A-Rod has far exceeded his actual relevance as a baseball player. Even if Rodriguez is able to return and play meaningful games with the Yankees this year, his presence in the lineup will be far outshone by the distraction he'll bring to the club.
National League Quick Hits: Miguel Montero was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a back strain ... Domonic Brown (concussion) swung a bat on Thursday and will take batting practice on Friday, with hopes of being back with the Phillies late next week ... Carlos Gonzalez (finger) missed Thursday's game but is still expected to avoid a DL trip ... Wandy Rodriguez (forearm) will be out until at least September, and possibly longer ... Jeremy Affeldt (groin) played light catch on Thursday, the first time he's thrown since sustaining the injury ... the Cubs signed the top international free agent, Eloy Jimenez, to a deal worth $2.8 million. The Dominican outfielder has huge power upside and is just 16 years old ... Barry Zito likely won't be the Giants' starter on Sunday. Giants manager Bruce Bochy will announce the probable starter for the game on Friday ... Phillies prospect Ethan Martin will make a spot start on Friday against the Braves ... Chris Johnson went 3-for-5 to extend his league lead in batting average to .346. It was his seventh straight multi-hit game.
American League Quick Hits: Albert Pujols will avoid surgery to repair his left plantar fascia. He will be re-evaluated in three weeks to see whether he'll be able to play again this year ... Clay Buchholz (shoulder) played long toss on Wednesday and could know by Sunday whether he'll be cleared to begin throwing off a mound ... Josh Willingham (knee) is expected to start a rehab assignment this weekend with Triple-A Rochester. He could be back with the Twins early next week ... Jason Hammel (forearm) will undergo an MRI on Friday, after which more will be known about a possible timetable for his return ... Lance Berkman (knee) will not retire and hopes to be ready to start a rehab assignment by next week ... Jake Peavy will make his Red Sox debut on Saturday ... The Twins demoted Aaron Hicks and recalled outfielder Oswaldo Arcia from Triple-A Rochester. The 23-year-old Hicks is hitting just .192/.259/.338 this year ... Yu Darvish struck out 14 Diamondbacks over seven scoreless innings, his fourth 14-strikeout game this season ... Billy Butler will be a non-factor in this weekend's interleague series against the Mets. Get him out of your lineups accordingly.