Ramirez returns to Cubs' lineup

Ramirez returns to Cubs' lineup

CHICAGO -- Third baseman Aramis Ramirez was back in the Cubs' lineup Thursday and outfielder Milton Bradley returned to action as a pinch-hitter, but only briefly, as he was ejected after being called out on strikes.

Ramirez had been bothered by tightness in his lower back, which he felt on Sunday but played through.

"It's better today than it was two days ago," Ramirez said Thursday.

Bradley has been out with a strained right groin and said Thursday that he had some discomfort for awhile and just pushed it too far on Sunday in Milwaukee. Athletic trainer Mark O'Neal had said he expected Bradley to be out three to five days.

"Obviously, it'll be closer to the five than the three," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

But Bradley stepped in to pinch-hit in the sixth on Thursday with the bases loaded against St. Louis' Adam Wainwright, and was called out on strikes by home-plate umpire Larry Vanover. Bradley argued the call, and was ejected. It was his first plate appearance at Wrigley Field.

Micah Hoffpauir started in right field on Thursday in the first game of the Cubs' four-game series against the Cardinals.

"We've got to get him in the lineup," Piniella said of Hoffpauir, who delivered a pinch-hit RBI double on Wednesday.

Piniella said he had three choices on where he could play Hoffpauir, then stopped.

"Actually we have four," he said. "We've got left field, we've got right field, and we've got short center."

The fourth, if you're counting, is first base, which is Hoffpauir's best spot defensively.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.