Hanley inches a little closer to return

LOS ANGELES -- A couple of days ago, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said a Monday return for All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez would be "a little optimistic." Then, Saturday happened.

Playing in a game at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, Ramirez went 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly, fielded eight grounders and turned three double plays, with no issues making throws from shortstop while wearing a splint on his surgically repaired right thumb. After watching film of the performance, Mattingly said Sunday Ramirez could return from the disabled list before Monday's series opener against the first-place Colorado Rockies.

"I think anything's possible with the way he looked last night," Mattingly said.

Rancho Cucamonga is off Monday, so Ramirez would have to travel to Albuquerque to continue his minor league rehabilitation assignment, or travel to Stockton to stay with the Quakes. If Ramirez is activated Monday, he will have beaten the original prognosis by two weeks.

Ramirez played winter ball all the way through the Caribbean Series, then played in the World Baseball Classic before injuring his thumb in the finals on March 19. Mattingly thinks those competitive at-bats have speeded his return, allowing him to regain his timing faster than he otherwise would have.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers continue to wait on second baseman Mark Ellis, who left Friday night's game with a strained right quadriceps. They could place Ellis on the 15-day disabled list while activating Ramirez Monday or Tuesday.

"I don't want to ever miss any time," Ellis said. "At the same time, you never want to handcuff a manager or your team."