This is meant to be a "good news" Friday, so we'll get the ominous news out of the way first. Not surprisingly, Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez is out of Friday's lineup, according to Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post. Ramirez has been dealing with severe back pain and intermittent sciatica over the past week, and it appears ever more likely that he will make his way onto the DL, a decision which is expected to come shortly. The biggest hint? The Marlins recalled shortstop Osvaldo Martinez from Triple-A New Orleans on Friday.
Now, onto better things heading into the weekend ...
• It's a good day in Philadelphia when there's a player returning to the lineup, not departing. Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino will rejoin the lineup for Friday's matchup against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He had been out since suffering a hamstring injury mid-May. While the injury was never deemed serious, the team wanted to minimize the likelihood of a setback and placed him on the DL. After a handful of uneventful outings in minor league games, Victorino appears ready to roll. Naturally, everyone will feel better after he's had a couple of uneventful weeks in the majors, but at some point there is nothing left to do but let the athlete test himself in all-out play.
• Pablo Sandoval and his big bat could be nearing a return. The San Francisco Giants have sent their third baseman to a rehab assignment, starting in San Jose, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. After a short stint there, Sandoval will move to Triple-A Fresno. If all goes well, Sandoval will rejoin the Giants at some point next week.
There is already reason to be encouraged. Sandoval, recovering from surgery to remove the fractured portion of the hamate from his right wrist, has demonstrated he can take swings from both sides of the plate. Batting left-handed during Wednesday batting practice, Sandoval hit two home runs, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The significance lies in the fact that when batting left-handed the knob of the bat puts pressure against Sandoval's surgical area (actually a likely reason for the original fracture, due to repeated contact pressure during his swing), which is often uncomfortable for players when they first resume hitting after a procedure such as this. Other players returning from this injury have reported soreness in the hand or difficulty with grip early on, which limits their power. So far the signs from Sandoval suggest that will not be a big concern for him.
• Although Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza did not come off the DL immediately when eligible, his return does not appear to be far off. Garza threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Wednesday, according to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. Although he had been throwing fine from flat ground, the bullpen was a bigger test for his bruised elbow. He apparently suffered no ill effects, and it looks as if he could rejoin the team next week.
• Another starter who could rejoin his team next week is Minnesota Twins lefty Francisco Liriano, who has been on the DL with shoulder inflammation, somewhat more concerning given that he also dealt with an episode of shoulder pain during spring training. Despite a couple of bright spots, Liriano has struggled this season, and it certainly appears the shoulder has been a factor. The Twins have to be hoping that a brief period of rest was the answer. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports Liriano felt pain-free playing catch Thursday. If all goes well with a planned Saturday bullpen, manager Ron Gardenhire expects Liriano to make his Tuesday start. While the Twins are looking for some positives, until Liriano is able to have consistent outings, it will be hard to have confidence that this is entirely behind him.