Hanley Ramirez claims he is on track to rejoin the Dodgers “way sooner” than expected

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From Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

The Dodgers originally thought Ramirez would be out until late May, but he has begun taking batting practice and fielding grounders. The team has outfitted him with a special splint to protect his surgically repaired right thumb that allows him to throw.

“It’s awesome. No pain, nothing,” Ramirez said. “Definitely it’s going to happen way sooner than it’s supposed to.”

The Dodgers have not confirmed that Hanley is ahead of schedule, but they’re also not denying it.

Ramirez fractured his right thumb on March 19 while playing for his native Dominican Republic in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He underwent surgery to repair the broken bone on March 22.

Filling in for the Dodgers at shortstop has been Justin Sellers, who carried a brutal .176/.263/.265 batting line into Tuesday night’s game against the Padres. Getting Ramirez back early would be huge.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.