CLEVELAND (AP) — José Ramírez's regular season is over. The postseason remains in play — if the Indians can make it without him.
Cleveland's hard-hitting third baseman is expected to need five to seven weeks to recover after underdoing hand surgery Monday in New York. Ramírez, whose hot bat the past two months helped get the Indians back into playoff contention, fractured the hamate bone in his right hand while taking a hard swing during the first inning of Saturday's game against Kansas City.
The team estimates he could be back as early as Oct. 1, when the AL playoffs open.
But the loss of Ramírez will make it tough to reach October for the Indians, who trail first-place Minnesota by 3½ games in the AL Central but have a one-half game lead in the wild-card race with 31 games remaining.
The 26-year-old Ramírez is one of the team's most indispensable players, providing power for their lineup while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at third.
"The best way to handle it is to do the same thing we try to do every day — go out and win a game," manager Terry Francona said Tuesday in Detroit before the Indians opened a three-game series. "Obviously, José is a great player, so this isn't going to be something that helps us, but now we know the situation, but we have to keep doing what we need to do."
After a slow — and strange — start this season, the two-time All-Star snapped out of a batting slump and is again one of the league's toughest outs. He has raised his batting average over 50 points since early June and has been among baseball's leaders in extra-base hits during the season's second half.
The Indians said hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham confirmed the club's diagnosis of the fracture and felt surgery was the appropriate course of action for Ramirez, who finished third in AL MVP voting the past two seasons.
While he is sidelined, Francona intends to use both rookie Yu Chang and Mike Freeman at third. Chang got his first two major league hits Sunday, when he started after being recalled from Triple-A Columbus.
Freeman started Tuesday's game.
Freelancer Dave Hogg in Detroit contributed.