By John Perrotto
PITTSBURGH — It was easy to look at the Pirates’ trade for Aramis Ramirez as nothing more than a bandage.
The Pirates needed help of 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 with significant injuries.
Thus, Ramirez seemed the perfect short-term fix. The 37-year-old third baseman still had some power and could hold the Pirates over following his July 23 acquisition from the Milwaukee Brewers in trade until Harrison and Mercer returned.
However, when Harrison and Mercer are activated sometime next week, it is not going to be so 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.
Ramirez is hitting .364 (16-for-44) with 11 RBIs in his last 11 games since going 4-for-34 (.118) with two RBIs in first eight games with the Pirates.
Hurdle couldn’t resist taking a jab Monday 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 ten games or 12 games, everybody else knows where they are hitting around him and that helps as well.
“He is having fun, this is a good group for him, so yeah it is working out 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 has seen.
“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.
For all his ups and downs, Alvarez leads the Pirates with 19 home runs and is hitting .252, just three points off his career high of .255 set as a rookie in 2010. He is also on a hot streak, going 13-for-27 (.481) with four home runs in his last eight 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.
“Very quietly, he’s picked up his offense in a very consistent fashion.”