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LOS ANGELES -- Hanley Ramirez said Tuesday he expects to be back "way sooner" than mid-May, which was the original target date for his return to the Los Angeles Dodgers' lineup from surgery on his right thumb.
Ramirez has begun taking batting practice and fielding grounders. The team has outfitted him with a special splint that allows him to throw while protecting his surgically repaired right thumb.
"It's awesome. No pain, nothing," Ramirez said Tuesday. "Definitely it's going to happen way sooner than it's supposed to."
Ramirez wouldn't reveal exactly when he might return, saying it was a surprise.
"I'm going to tweet it," he said.
The Dodgers could certainly use his bat in the lineup. Entering Tuesday night's game, Dodgers shortstops were hitting .167, worst in the majors, while their third basemen were hitting .178.
The Dodgers continue to go primarily with Justin Sellers at shortstop and Luis Cruz at third base, largely because they lack other options. After both went hitless in the Dodgers' 9-2 loss to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night, Cruz is batting .103, Sellers .167. They each have one RBI. But they are easily the best available defenders at their positions.
"We decided we're going to play defense," manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday. "When you put together a pitching staff like this, you have to catch the ball."