Mannywood may have left Dodger Stadium, but its featured attraction could be back in left field as soon as Saturday.
Manager Joe Torre said Friday it was possible Manny Ramirez would return to the Dodgers after only three minor league rehabilitation games with Class-A Inland Empire, considerably faster than initially expected.
Ramirez played in the outfield Friday with the 66ers. He was initially expected to spend about a week with Inland Empire, which opens a three-game series Saturday in Bakersfield.
Torre said the timing of Ramirez's activation off the disabled list would hinge primarily on his comfort level in the outfield. Ramirez has been sidelined since July 17 because of a right calf strain.
"If he's healthy, and we're hoping that's the case, then I think he's going to make a difference as far as giving us a threat in the middle of the lineup," Torre said of Ramirez, who is hitting .317 with eight homers and 39 runs batted in in 61 games.
"So we want to play him as often as we can, but we don't want to play him to where we're going to wind up regretting it."
Though Ramirez's return could result in a logjam of outfielders, Torre said he probably would dole out playing time "based on a lot of matchup stuff." The manager said Matt Kemp and Scott Podsednik would both play center field, with shortstop Jamey Carroll the likely leadoff hitter on days that Podsednik was out of the lineup.
Torre said he talked to the struggling Kemp "a couple of times" Thursday but declined to divulge the nature of their conversations.
"Obviously, he's fighting himself and fighting it and not feeling very good about himself," Torre said, "and we want to get him back to that guy we know he can be."
No rehab required
Torre said reliever Jeff Weaver could be activated off the disabled list as soon as Saturday, depending on how many innings the Dodgers needed from their bullpen Friday.
"If we're a little short we may need to do something," Torre said.
Weaver, sidelined since Aug. 3 because of tendinitis in his left knee, has not made a minor league rehabilitation appearance since suffering the injury but pitched a simulated game Tuesday.
Reliever Travis Schlichting was recalled from triple-A Albuquerque to take Vicente Padilla's roster spot after Padilla was placed on the disabled list because of a bulging disk in his neck. … Torre said reliever Jonathan Broxton, whose first three appearances since losing the closer's role were scoreless, "seems more relaxed and hopefully he keeps going in that direction." Broxton could pitch in the ninth inning, Torre said, if Hong-Chih Kuo was unavailable. … Catcher Russell Martin said he wouldn't know whether he needs surgery to repair the fracture and torn ligament in his right hip until he has an MRI exam and X-rays in early September. … Starting 10 of the Dodgers' last 16 games after sitting out most of the previous four months because of a back injury has not changed catcher Brad Ausmus' retirement plans. "Nope," he said. "This is it." The 41-year-old said he was holding up fine under the increased workload.