Hanley Ramirez played his first game with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday,… (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated…)
Hanley Ramirez moved a big step closer to rejoining the Dodgers when he started at shortstop Saturday for the team's Class-A affiliate in Rancho Cucamonga. And Ramirez, who hasn't played since tearing a ligament in his right thumb during the World Baseball Classic five weeks ago, made an immediate contribution finishing one for three with two runs batted in and handling eighth chances, including three double plays, in six innings.
Ramirez is expected to play for the Quakes on Sunday but Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said the timetable for Ramirez's return to the majors would be set by Stan Conte, the team's vice president for medical services.
"As soon as Stan tells me that we're ready to go with Hanley, then we'll be ready to go. We're getting close with Hanley," Mattingly said of Ramirez, who is playing with a protective splint on his right thumb. "The thing we always caution is we haven't played any games. It's another level of intensity. And then we'll find out how that goes.
"Game speed's a lot different than working out. It's just not the same."
Mark Ellis' status is wait and see
Mattingly was cautiously optimistic that infielder Mark Ellis could avoid the disabled list after straining his right quadriceps running out a ground ball in Friday's series opener with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ellis, who has the second-best average (.545) in the National League with runners in scoring position, is working on a six-game hitting streak during which he is batting .407.
"He's really good today. Let's see what it looks like tomorrow and we'll be able to make a better decision," Mattingly said of Ellis who, the club added, has not undergone an MRI exam. "Anytime you see a guy pull up like that, it's usually not good news."
Just in case, the Dodgers appear ready to call up utility player Alex Castellanos, who is hitting .312 at triple-A Albuquerque. Castellanos was held out of the Isotopes' lineup Saturday for only the second time this season.
Chris Capuano is close to returning
Chris Capuano threw 34 pitches in a two-inning simulated game and pronounced himself ready to make a minor league rehab start. If that goes well, the left-hander could return to the Dodgers rotation next week.
"I felt really good today," said Capuano, who went on the disabled list April 17 because of a left calf strain. "I've got a lot of pent-up energy right now. I want to go out and run and keep throwing. But it's good that we've been able to take our time with this."
Capuano was scheduled to pitch the simulated game before Sunday's afternoon game, but that would have required him to be on the mound around 10 a.m. So the Dodgers moved it up a day, which pushes Capuano's return to the rotation up a day as well.
"I haven't felt one thing, knock on wood, this whole process," Capuano said of his calf.