By John Perrotto
August 19, 2015
PITTSBURGH — It was easy to look at the Pirates’ trade for Aramis Ramirez as a stop-gap measure.
The Pirates desperately needed help in the left side of the infield last month when third baseman Josh Harrison (torn left thumb ligament) and shortstop Jordy Mercer (sprained left knee) went on the disabled list.
Ramirez seemed the perfect short-term fix when acquired July 23 from the Brewers. The 37-year-old third baseman was looked at as at least being good enough to hold the Pirates over until Harrison and Mercer returned.
However, when Harrison and Mercer are activated — likely next week — it won't be that simple for manager Clint Hurdle to relegate Ramirez to the bench.
Ramirez has proven to be a good fit as the cleanup hitter in a Pirates lineup that had been lacking a true No. 4 hitter all season.
Despite going 0-for-4 in a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night, Ramirez is hitting .350 (17-for-50) with 12 RBIs in his last 13 games since going 4-for-34 (.118) with two RBIs in first eight games following the trade.
Hurdle couldn’t resist taking a jab at the media critics who questioned the trade during Ramirez’s slow start.
“Everybody else is a little more comfortable with him hitting fourth now,” Hurdle said. “I was comfortable from the beginning, I was comfortable in the middle, I am comfortable now and I believe in where it is going to go.
“I believe in the man, I believe in the back of the ball card, I wanted to take a guy who has experience doing it and see if he could do it. I didn’t want to flip it after 10 games or 12 games. Everybody else knows where they are hitting around him and that helps as well.”
Ramirez has been working out at first base in recent days in an effort to give Hurdle more options to get him into the lineup when Harrison returns. Ramirez has never played first in his 18-year career but Hurdle likes what he sees.
“He has good feet and good hands,” Hurdle said. “He doesn’t look out of place over there by any means.”
However, don’t look for the Pirates to bench the inconsistent Pedro Alvarez and make Ramirez the everyday first baseman.
Alvarez, too, is on a hot streak, going 15-for-31 (.484) with four home runs and nine RBIs in his last 10 games.
“He’s barreled up balls in the strike zone,” Hurdle said. “He’s not chasing a number of pitches outside the zone. Every once in a while he’ll get after one, but he’s done a real good job with his discipline and his balance. He’s getting balls that are up and putting good swings on them.”