Cubs' Ramirez ready for rehab at-bats

Cubs' Ramirez ready for rehab at-bats

CHICAGO -- Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez will test his left thumb this weekend, playing with Class A Peoria on Saturday and Sunday, and could be back in the lineup next week.

He's been on the disabled list since June 8 because of a sprained left thumb and has taken batting practice every day this week.

"It feels better, but until I play the game ... you know, [batting practice] is one thing, in a game is another," Ramirez said Friday. "We'll see how it is after I play."

If Ramirez is able to return next week, he could be used as a designated hitter. The Cubs will play six consecutive Interleague games in American League ballparks, starting Tuesday with three games in Seattle.

Playing third hasn't been the issue, Ramirez said, although the swelling in his hand was aggravated when he wore a glove.

"I'm fine to play third base," Ramirez said. "Swinging is the key, that's going to be the key. That's why I'm going to test it Saturday and Sunday."

"We have an opportunity to DH him, play him at third or a combination of both," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "The other guys have been playing, the weather's getting hot. We need to rest them, too."

Looking ahead to the games against the Mariners and at U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox, the Cubs could start Xavier Nady at first and have Derrek Lee be the designated hitter, or start Tyler Colvin in center or left and use Marlon Byrd or Alfonso Soriano as the designated hitter.

"That's Lou's decision," Ramirez said. "If he wants me to DH, I'll DH. If he wants me to play third, I'll play third. It doesn't really matter."

Ramirez was expected to get six to eight at-bats over the weekend with Peoria. He has been working with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and adjusted his grip slightly.

"I've been hitting the same way for 15 years," Ramirez said. "[I changed] just a little bit."

"If he's fine, we'll get him back on the [active] list, and hopefully he's nice and productive for us," Piniella said.

Ramirez was batting .168 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 47 games.

"I've just got to get healthy and try to help this team," Ramirez said.