Monday's game between the Inland Empire 66ers and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes wasn't just any game between raw prospects at the lower levels of the minor leagues. Instead, the spotlight focused in on Los Angeles Dodgers rehabbing star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who is working his back from a hamstring injury.
Ramirez, who hasn't played since suffering the injury on May 3rd, appeared in a pair of games for the Quakes over the weekend. Monday's appearance in Rancho made it the shortstop's third rehab appearance with the Dodgers' affiliate, and you could tell.
Batting second and playing shortstop, Ramirez put on a show in batting practice with his final hacks, hitting a set of screaming liners well out of the park. It translated into the game, too, as Ramirez lined a 91 MPH fastball offering the other way for a stand-up double in his first plate appearance.
In his second plate appearance, Ramirez hit a slow grounder to shortstop, but was called safe at first after the shortstop mishandled a hop to him as well as making an errant throw to the bag. To Ramirez's credit, he ran hard out of the box and quite well.
Before being pulled after the sixth inning (as planned), Ramirez would get one more plate appearance in, but wouldn't get on base for a third consecutive time. Instead making a loud fly out to Angels outfielder Peter Bourjos, who is also rehabbing from a hamstring injury.
Monday's game may have been the final step before Ramirez returns to the Dodgers big league club. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly sure hopes so, at least.
"Hopefully we'll have Hanley tomorrow," Mattingly said after the game.