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It's hardly worth panicking over Hanley's injury

It's not exactly ideal to learn that one of your middle-of-the-order hitters needs thumb surgery 11 days before Opening Day.

And Hanley Ramirez's injury, sustained while vainly diving for a ball in the World Baseball Classic final, will spark some misguided outrage that he played in the tournament.

But let's not get carried away here. This is an injury that is eminently survivable for the Dodgers. It might not affect their win total one iota, particularly if you presume Ramirez will have a season like his last two. It could, in fact, dramatically improve their defense in the first couple of months.

But it illustrates two points that bear monitoring all season. For having the biggest payroll in baseball history, the Dodgers -- to put it kindly -- are not particularly deep in position players. And, the offense might not be as powerful as Dodgers fans hoped, especially now that it will be missing its No. 5 hitter for a couple of months.

For the sake of context, let's recall that the Dodgers began the 2012 season with Juan Rivera in left field, hitting fifth, Dee Gordon at shortstop, batting leadoff, and James Loney at first base, hitting sixth. Through May 22 -- about the predicted length of Ramirez's recovery -- the Dodgers went 30-13.

That's not to say any of the options at this point are particularly enticing.

Manager Don Mattingly said Option No. 1 is to move Luis Cruz back to shortstop, where he played 23 games last season, and use some combination of Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Nick Punto at third base. Yeesh.

It seems like using Gordon at shortstop and leaving Cruz at third gives you a little more upside. Before he sprained his ankle, Gordon was showing some signs of improved patience, with eight walks in 16 games. He had just one error.

Gordon likely would bat seventh or eighth and might not feel the pressure he did as a leadoff hitter. If he could get on base, he could provide a spark at the bottom of the lineup. It would also leave Cruz at his natural position, where he has played most of the spring.

But the larger point is this: Where's the depth?

The ESPN Stats and Info folks passed this one along:

2012 WAR

Cruz 2.2

Punto 0.7

Hairston 0.7

Uribe -0.4

Gordon -1.3

Cruz would have been playing either way, so to recap: two of the remaining players are barely replacement level (ie., Triple-A caliber) and two are worse than that. Not a pretty picture.

The other bummer about Thursday's news is it dampens the possibility of, "What if everything goes right?" The answer to that is still, "They're a very, very good team," but it's not, "1927 Yankees."

It has felt for a while like Ramirez is the hinge guy in this lineup, because his potential is so huge but his production lately so disappointing.

What if he could get back to 2006-2010 Hanley, when he batted .313, averaged 25 home runs and 39 stolen bases a season? With ideal left-right balance in their order and consistent run producers like Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez hitting ahead of him, the Dodgers could have put serious pressure on opposing staffs to make near-perfect pitches.

The past two seasons, though, Ramirez has hit .252 and averaged 17 homers and 20 stolen bases. He has, in other words, been average, at best. We haven't even discussed his fielding, for which the phrase, "sub-par," is probably more than fair.

While their bench options are far from ideal, the Dodgers do, in fact, have a pretty good fall-back option: their pitching.

On a back field in Arizona Wednesday, Zack Greinke threw 43 pitches over four innings in a minor-league game and said afterward that he had no pain in his right elbow. That good news, could, in fact, outweigh the bad news out of Ramirez's MRI. No matter how many dollars the Dodgers have thrown at their hitting woes, it's still all about pitching.