Injured Hanley Ramirez would be a welcome return to Dodgers' lineup

Los Angeles Dodgers hitter Hanley Ramirez reacts after Los Angeles Dodgers hitter Hanley Ramirez reacts after being hit by a pitch during the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game One of the National League Championship Series. (Oct. 11, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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LOS ANGELES - For Dodgers catalyst Hanley Ramirez, it hurts to sleep, it hurts to breathe and it hurts to swing a baseball bat.

The pain has only worsened since Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Friday, when Joe Kelly's 95-mph fastball crashed into the upper part of his left rib cage. Three days later, with the Dodgers in danger of letting this series against the Cardinals spiral out of control, Ramirez's status remains murky.

"We've got to find a way to be able to do it with Hanley or without Hanley," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Sunday, a day before Game 3 against the Cardinals.

In 86 regular-season games, Ramirez hit .345 with 20 homers and 57 RBIs. The shortstop was even better in the Dodgers' National League Division Series triumph over the Braves: 8-for-16 with a homer and six RBIs. His 1.618 on-base plus slugging percentage in the Division Series led all players.

But after getting plunked, Ramirez was a non-factor in Game 1 and didn't appear in Game 2. In that span, the Dodgers have been limited to two runs in 22 innings in two losses.

Despite Ramirez's optimism -- he insists he can play even if the scan reveals a crack in his ribs -- Mattingly said it is difficult to be "definitive" until the team learns the results of a CT scan.

"No matter how much Hanley wants to play, there are certain things you're not going to be able to play with," said Mattingly, who is dealing with a lineup filled with question marks.

Rightfielder Yasiel Puig, who was 8-for-17 in the NLDS, enters Game 3 of the NLCS 0-for-10 with six strikeouts. Centerfielder Andre Ethier remains questionable because of a left ankle injury that has compromised his ability to play defense.

With Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright on the mound, the Dodgers will need as much firepower as they can muster. And of all the Dodgers with at least five plate appearances against Wainwright, Ethier has enjoyed the most success. He's hitting .303 with a 1.028 on-base plus slugging percentage against Wainwright. Ethier has three career homers against him and the rest of the Dodgers have totaled none.

"This team's been counted out a lot of times this year," Ethier said. "We figured out a way to get it done."

Of course, the task would be much easier with Ramirez back in the lineup. He faces long odds. When Ramirez tried to hit on Saturday, he found he couldn't follow through on his swing. Nor could he fully extend his left arm.

"Every time you move, you feel it," he said.

On Sunday, he didn't even bother to attempt any baseball activities during the Dodgers' optional workout. Instead, he used the afternoon to undergo extensive treatment in hopes of some improvement by Game 3. He iced his bruised ribs every 20 minutes, a regimen he expects to continue Monday in the hours leading up to first pitch.

If the injury boils down to simply withstanding the pain, Ramirez insists he can play.

"I'm going to try 100 percent tomorrow to go, up to the last minute," he said. "I hope I can make it."

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