Ramirez takes minor step

Manny Ramirez singled, walked and struck out swinging Wednesday in the first game of a minor league rehab assignment with the team’s Class-A affiliate in San Bernardino.

Ramirez was in Manager Jeff Carter’s original lineup in left field, but about two hours before game time Carter moved Ramirez to the designated hitter spot. No reason for the change was given.

Ramirez, sidelined since July 17 because of a right calf strain, was greeted by warm applause when he stepped to the on-deck circle in the bottom of the first. Batting leadoff, he took three consecutive balls from Lake Elsinore right-hander Adam Schrader, fouled off the fourth pitch, then accepted a walk. An out later he was erased on a force play.

In the third inning, he singled up the middle on a 1-0 pitch and was again retired at second on a force.

In the fifth, he worked the count full before swinging through a pitch, striking out.


As for when Ramirez might be ready to join the Dodgers, Manager Joe Torre was taking a patient approach. “It’s going to have to be him telling us,” Torre said. “He’s going to have to go out there, play and test it.”

The Dodgers expect Ramirez to play for Inland Empire again Thursday and Friday before being reevaluated.


Furcal suffers setback

While Ramirez may be just days away from coming off the disabled list, the team is back to square one with All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal, who has been out the past 15 games because of a low back strain.

Furcal, who was batting .316 when he was sidelined two weeks ago, accompanied the team on its recent trip and had planned to begin his own minor league rehab assignment this week.

But he showed up at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday complaining of back soreness, which had worsened Wednesday.

Stan Conte, the team’s director of medical services, said Dr. Robert WatkinsJr., an orthopedic spine specialist, recommended that Furcal stop baseball activities and has scheduled a bone scan Thursday.

“We’ll take a half a step back and relook at it again and see what we have in the next 24 hours,” Conte said

A despondent Furcal, asked if he was frustrated by the fickleness of his injury, answered “Big time. I feel good for two days and the next two or three days I feel bad.

“I want to play. I want to know what’s going on. Because I’m working and working and I never get better. I cannot do anything I want to do.”


By George, he’s got it

Minutes after helping protect Clayton Kershaw’s seven innings of shutout work by retiring the only three batters he faced Tuesday, reliever George Sherrill sat in front of his locker working a crossword puzzle.

Sherrill has himself been a puzzle most of this season. But after working out a mechanical problem earlier this month, he has provided scoreless relief in seven of his last eight appearances.

“I got hired to do that, so it’s nice to be able to finally do it,” he said. “Too bad it’s August.”

Thanks to his early-season struggles, which included a stint on the DL, Sherrill is still saddled with a lofty 6.44 ERA, more than double his career ERA.

Still, “it’s finally getting there,” he said. “It’s been a long process and I guess when you’re that off mechanically, it’s going to take a while.”

Said Torre: “He seems to be a lot more sure of where the ball is going now.”


Short hops

Right-hander Jeff Weaver, sidelined since Aug. 3 because of left knee tendinitis, threw to batters in a two-inning simulated game and could be ready to pitch in a minor league game soon.





Here’s something Dodgers fans haven’t seen for a while: Manny Ramirez. The outfielder, who has been on the disabled list since July 17 because of a calf injury, began a minor league rehab assignment in San Bernardino with Class-A Inland Empire. He went one for three with a walk and a strikeout, and Joe Torre says Ramirez must say when he is ready to return.

With Ramirez

Record: 34-27

Runs per game: 4.9

Without Ramirez

Record: 37-33

Runs per game: 3.8