ST. LOUIS -- To play a willing but not healthy Hanley Ramirez, or to sit him?
That's the question Dodgers manager Don Mattingly faces for Friday's Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium.
"To a point," Mattingly said when asked Thursday if he was committed to starting Ramirez despite his fractured rib. "If he says, 'Oh, I'll go out there but I don't feel like I can do anything,' then we're going to have to make a decision."
Mattingly has three other players capable of playing shortstop in Dee Gordon, Michael Young and Nick Punto. Punto will be Ramirez's replacement, if one is needed.
"I look at Nick and he's capable of swinging the bat and getting hits and doing some things on the field too," Mattingly said. "We've seen that through the course of the season. So Hanley ... he's got to be able to feel like he can do something."
Ramirez did virtually nothing in the Dodgers' last two games, going 0 for 6 with four strikeouts and one dugout outburst featuring a slammed Gatorade jug.
Still, Mattingly was relatively encouraged.
"Even though he hasn't had any hits, I thought he had a couple swings (Wednesday) where he looked more like himself," Mattingly said. "Obviously not a hundred percent like himself, but better."
Mattingly hopes the 48 hours between the time Ramirez exited Wednesday's game and Friday's first pitch will provide "a little bit of relief."
The on-the-fly Mickey Mouse ears Adrian Gonzalez broke out after his third-inning homer in Wednesday's win, poking fun at St. Louis' Adam Wainwright, quickly became an Internet sensation.
But he said he planned to retire them going forward to avoid further controversy.
"It's just something that doesn't need to be talked about," Gonzalez said. "It was just for fun. I don't need it to get out of hand here because it shouldn't be."
Asked then how he felt about Gonzalez's decision, left fielder Carl Crawford took an unexpected approach.
"Once you start it, you've got to keep going," Crawford said, giggling. "I'm pretty sure it rubbed them the wrong way and they're going to use that as some kind of fuel, so you might as well keep doing it, Adrian."
Mattingly said his players weren't sending a message to the Cardinals.
"We're not trying to get in anybody's head," Mattingly said. "We're trying to win games."
Right-hander Zack Greinke threw 104 pitches in each of his two starts in this series. With an off-day Thursday, Greinke could be an option out of the bullpen if the series goes seven games.
Greinke said he is willing but not sure if he would be the best option.
"I'm sure it's possible," he said of being asked to pitch out of the bullpen. "But, I mean, bullpen guys -- their job is the bullpen. Starters, their job is (to be) a starter. They train for it. They practice it. I mean, I've done it before. But it's not as easy as you think to switch. You're starting the whole year and then come out of the bullpen out of nowhere.
"But I'm sure an extra-innings type situation it would be more realistic if that happens."
Greinke made 41 appearances out of the bullpen for the Kansas City Royals in 2006 and 2007 when he was struggling with social anxiety disorder and considered walking away from baseball. Greinke was 5-1 with a 3.62 ERA and one save as a reliever, striking out 60 in 592/3 innings.
The Dodgers claimed outfielder Mike Baxter from the New York Mets and designated outfielder Alex Castellanos for assignment. Baxter is not eligible to be added to any playoff roster.
Orange County Register staff writer Bill Plunkett contributed to this report.
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