Aramis may be back on Friday

Aramis may be back on Friday

CHICAGO -- Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez hoped to hit off coaches on Friday and may be available this weekend.

Ramirez has been sidelined with a sprained left thumb and received a cortisone shot to alleviate some of the discomfort.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella thought Ramirez was hitting in the batting cage on Thursday, and the third baseman said he did do some soft-toss drills with coach Rudy Jaramillo.

"I'm assuming he'll be ready to go [Friday], and I'm assuming that possibly he'll be ready to pinch-hit today," Piniella said Thursday.

But Ramirez wasn't called upon in the Cubs' 1-0 win over the Dodgers.

If there is any uncertainty, the Cubs will wait. Ramirez was batting .160 when sidelined. He has not started since Saturday in Arlington.

With Ramirez out, Piniella tweaked his lineup for the series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday and inserted rookie Starlin Castro into the No. 2 spot. It's the first time Castro has batted there against a right-hander. He usually hits eighth against right-handed pitchers and second against left-handers.

Alfonso Soriano did not start on Thursday to get a breather and Mike Fontenot did not start, nursing a bruised hand -- suffered when he was hit by a pitch on Wednesday -- but he entered in the top of the eighth for Jeff Baker and scored the game-winning run on Tyler Colvin's RBI double.

Following Thursday's win, the Cubs now are 8-0 when Castro bats second.