Aramis Ramirez injury: Options to start while Brewers' 3B is on DL

Tom Lynn

Lyle Overbay will likely see much more playing time with Ramirez out. Is that really the best the Brewers can do?

Brewers' third baseman Aramis Ramirez is 35 years old and has not been the most healthy player the last few years. It's only natural that he'll see a few bumps and bruises this season. Right now, it looks like he'll be heading to the DL with a hamstring strain. It's not official yet, but it looks pretty likely. That means that the Brewers will have an opening in their starting lineup for a couple of weeks.

But is Lyle Overbay -- he of  a .235/.312/.309 batting line -- really the best option to be a full-time starter in Ramirez's absence? Mark Reynolds appears set to move to the hot corner in the interim while the position is open, leaving first base empty. Naturally, Reynolds' platoon partner Overbay seems like the logical player to fill that spot on the diamond.

The Brewers can do better than that, though, right? Overbay had a brief eight-game hot stretch earlier in the season where he picked up ten hits and two walks in 19 plate appearances, but otherwise has been dreadful at the plate. Still, Brewers management loves having his veteran presence in the lineup, and he does play nice defense at first base.

The other option given the construction of the active roster is for Jeff Bianchi to play third base while Reynolds stays at first. It doesn't seem like Milwaukee is as receptive to that idea, though I'm sure both Bianchi and Overbay will each see more time with Ramirez out. Regardless of who it is, the Brewers will choose to have a weak hitter in their lineup at a time the offense is already struggling.

The problem is, though, the Brewers don't really have any better options to play significant time while Ramirez is out. Who could they call up that would be given the opportunity to start a fair amount of the time? On the 40-man roster, only Elian Herrera and Hunter Morris could conceivably be called up to fill a spot in the lineup. We've seen what Herrera can do, and it's not starting-player worthy.

Morris, meanwhile, has been a bit of a polarizing figure. Some think his fantastic power potential makes him someone who could contribute to the team this year, others think he doesn't get on base well enough to carry much value. The fact remains, though, that of players in the Brewers system he is likely the top option for First Baseman of the Future.

After posting just a .310 OBP in Triple-A Nashville last year, Morris has started 2014 hot with a .290/.336/.489 line. Still, the Brewers have seemed loathe to give him much of a shot at the majors for now. He had been expected to be involved in the first base competition in spring, but really the Brewers appeared to be settled on Overbay and Reynolds -- both signed to minor league deals in the offseason -- to fill the position.

Jason Rogers is really the only other player on the 40-man who could play the infield, but he's been mired in a slump for the better part of 2014 and has yet to advance to Triple-A. The Brewers could open up a 40-man spot by placing Johnny Hellweg (who is having Tommy John surgery) on the 60-day DL (edit: This apparently would not actually open a spot on the 40-man), but who would they add? Taylor Green or Sean Halton would be most likely, but it's not like the Brewers would use them in a starting role.

If the Brewers were to call someone up, they would also have to send a player down, since Ryan Braun appears to be the likely option to be activated if/when Ramirez is officially placed on the DL. There are no obvious candidates to be removed from the roster. The team needs both Caleb Gindl and Logan Schafer for when Carlos Gomez takes his suspension, and the team likely won't weaken the bullpen anymore.

So, it's Lyle Overbay and/or Jeff Bianchi or bust. It's not great, but there isn't really any other choice, or at least not one the team would try. The Brewers have dug themselves into a hole with regards to depth. So far, it's worked out fine. It's hard to complain about how the team was put together when they are still tied with the Rockies for the most wins in the majors. I just hope the poor backup options don't end up hurting the team too badly down the line.

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