Two days after the Indians announced that shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Jason Kipnis will begin the season on the injured list, Jose Ramirez fouled a pitch off the inside of his left knee and was carted off the field in the third inning of Sunday’s game vs. the White Sox.
X-rays for Ramirez revealed no broken bone, but he was diagnosed with a left knee contusion, according to MLB.com. The Indians gave no immediate timetable for his return, which puts his status for Opening Day is in question. Ramirez finished third in the American League MVP voting in both 2017 and 2018, and his 136 OPS+ ranks 11th among all players since 2016, the year he became an everyday player.
If Ramirez is not ready for Opening Day, the Indians will be without their two best hitters—Lindor has a 119 OPS+ in his four Major League seasons—and three of their four starting infielders when the regular season begins. They signed infielder Brad Miller on Sunday to fill in for the injured Kipnis, and they previously added veteran bats Hanley Ramirez and Carlos Santana, but the lineup will be far less daunting without Jose Ramirez and Lindor.
Still, the Indians play in the AL Central, which is expected to be the least competitive division this season. As of Sunday afternoon before Ramirez’s injury, Fangraphs projected Cleveland to win the division with a 93–69 record, 11 games ahead of the Twins, who the site has finishing second. Lindor and Kipnis are not expected to miss significant time, and the result of Ramirez’s X-rays is definitely a good sign for the Indians.
Lindor has been out with a moderate right calf strain since Feb. 6, and all initial reports suggested he would miss the start of the season. But the three-time All-Star has made significant progress since then, and before the club announced he would start the season on the IL, Lindor was optimistic he would be ready for Opening Day. The shortstop cannot return until April 4 at the earliest.