LOS ANGELES -- Hanley Ramirez is nearing a return to the Dodgers, as the shortstop is scheduled to begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Saturday with Class A Rancho Cucamonga.
Ramirez wants to return to the Dodgers by Tuesday, because that's his Bobblehead Night at Dodger Stadium. But manager Don Mattingly would not give a firm date for the shortstop to be activated from the disabled list.
"Monday would be really optimistic," Mattingly said before Friday's game against the Brewers. "He hasn't played in a while."
Ramirez has yet to play this season following surgery on a torn right thumb ligament on March 22. He's been taking batting practice for over a week, and has been throwing for even longer. Ramirez will play with a new, smaller splint on Saturday to prevent him from re-injuring the ligament. He will continue to wear the splint when he returns to the Dodgers.
Mattingly said he's not concerned about Ramirez's offense. Instead, the manger wants to be sure Ramirez is comfortable throwing with the splint before the Dodgers activate him.
"He's worked really hard on his defense and I don't really want him to come back just to be back," Mattingly said. "I want him to be ready to play, and be able to play at a level that is natural, not where he has to think about throwing and how he's going to grip the ball and things like that. As soon as he's ready for that, we're ready for him."
Mattingly said Ramirez had a rough time throwing last weekend in Baltimore, but had improved by the end of a six-game road trip that ended on Thursday in New York.
"It was a huge improvement," Mattingly said. "So we're seeing strides. It's just a matter of getting where it's totally natural for him. As long as he can throw naturally, I'm willing to play him."
Capuano to throw simulated game on Sunday
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Capuano is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Sunday, the next step in the left-hander's progression from a left calf strain.
Capuano also threw a 55-pitch bullpen session on Thursday, and his leg injury has not prevented him from throwing regularly. He pulled his calf in the second inning of a start on April 16 against the Padres, and went on the 15-day disabled list the following day.
Capuano is eligible to return from the DL on Thursday, but is unlikely to be activated then. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Capuano would make a Minor League rehab start next week before he is activated, barring any setbacks.
Mattingly said the club has an idea of when to slot Capuano back in the rotation, possibly May 8 against Arizona, but wants to wait to see how Capuano responds before setting a firm date.
"Let's just get a little farther down the road, make sure everything goes good," the manager said before Friday's game against the Brewers.
Capuano played catch in the outfield at Dodger Stadium on Friday afternoon, and has also started a running program.
Defense remains strength at third base
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers haven't gotten much offensive production from their third-base options, but that hasn't hurt the defense.
So while manager Don Mattingly continues to mix and match at third to find offense, he's not worried about sacrificing defensively.
"Our defense at third has been great," Mattingly said before Friday's game against the Brewers. "It don't matter who we throw over there. They've all caught it really well."
Juan Uribe made his eighth start at third on Friday, his second in as many games after three straight starts by Jerry Hairston. Uribe walked three times with a single and an RBI during Thursday's 3-2 win against the Mets, which intrigued Mattingly.
"He's been more patient," the manager said. "For him to walk three times in a game, we didn't see any of that before. He's pretty much been on base."
Uribe is hitting .190 with two homers and four RBIs, but is reaching base at a .414 clip in 11 games. He's seen more time at third recently with Luis Cruz hitting .087 (4-for-46) in 16 games.
Cruz was the primary third baseman to begin the year and made nine starts, but his slump has limited his playing time.
"Cruzer will get his chances again," Mattingly said. "This is the time for him to get his swing back together. We're going to need him. I'll get him back in the mix."
Hairston provided some spectacular defense at third during a six-game road trip, but went 2-for-15 and is hitting .172.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.