MINNEAPOLIS -- The short, black dreadlocks that constantly pushed Jose Ramirez's helmet off on the basepaths are gone. When the Indians' utility man arrived at Target Field, he showed up with a new hairdo that looks like flames bursting from the top of his head.
That seems fitting, considering that Ramirez has been one of the Tribe's hottest hitters this season. In a 5-2 win over the Twins on Friday night, Ramirez stayed hot with a pair of hits and RBIs out of the middle of Cleveland's lineup, where he has been a catalyst while Michael Brantley works his way back from a right shoulder injury.
One member of the organization quipped in the clubhouse after the win that "clutch cut" would be a good name for Ramirez's new look. In the hours leading up to Friday's game, bald backup catcher Chris Gimenez ran his fingers through the hairdo -- perhaps for good luck. Indians manager Terry Francona, on the other hand, joked that it looked like Ramirez "went through a car wash in a convertible."
Cleveland probably does not care what color Ramirez chooses for his hair, if he keeps hitting like this.
The stocky Ramirez, an infielder by trade, has played mostly left field with Brantley on the disabled list. Francona has also leaned on the switch-hitting Ramirez as his No. 5 hitter. That is where Ramirez, with his high contact rate, was on Friday, when he drove Francisco Lindor in with a single in the fourth and sixth innings.
"He comes up with great at-bats, especially with guys on and in scoring position," said Mike Napoli, Cleveland's cleanup hitter. "I saw him in Spring Training, and I saw that he could play. For him to be able to go to different positions and still be able to hit, that's pretty tough. [It's hard] worrying about just one position. He's been huge for us. He's a guy that's coming through in the clutch and playing good defense."
Heading into Friday's game, Ramirez ranked fourth in the Majors with a .377 batting average with runners in scoring position, including a .400 mark with RISP and two outs. With his two hits against the Twins, Ramirez improved his showing with RISP to .394 (28-for-71).
Ramirez said he enjoys those situations.
"Sometimes it gets a little more intense when you have runners in scoring position," he said.
Through 81 games this season, Ramirez has turned in a .298/.354/.418 line along with 10 stolen bases, 26 extra-base hits, 40 RBIs and 43 runs scored. That is a dramatic improvement from last year, when Ramirez hit .219 in 97 games for Cleveland, which sent him back to Triple-A in the middle of the year due to offensive woes in the first half.
A year later, Ramirez has seen his confidence rise with his average, and Cleveland has not missed a beat while awaiting Brantley's return. When the Tribe's star left fielder does come back -- Brantley moved his Minor League rehab up to Double-A Akron on Friday night -- the club knows Ramirez can slide to third base.
"With Brantley gone, he's been hitting in the middle of the order for us," Francona said of Ramirez. "That speaks volumes. At some point, when Brantley comes back, we still know we have a really good player. He'll play somewhere else, but he's a really good player."
Ramirez is looking forward to having Brantley back in the fold, too.
"I feel really good, because I've played so well," Ramirez said. "But, Brantley is a really important piece here."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.