SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) - Ready or not, Manny Ramirez is headed back to the big leagues.
The suspended slugger played what is expected to be his final minor league rehab game Monday night for Class-A Inland Empire, going 1 for 3 with two strikeouts. He is eligible to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night in San Diego after serving a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy.
The Dodgers originally planned to have Ramirez play another game with Inland Empire on Tuesday morning. But on Monday night, team spokesman Josh Rawitch said the slugger's stint in the minors was over.
In part because of the 11 a.m. start Tuesday, the Dodgers didn't see any need to push Ramirez further.
"I don't think one more game is going to make that much difference," said general manager Ned Colletti, who was in San Bernardino to watch Ramirez play against Rancho Cucamonga.
Ramirez batted leadoff as the designated hitter and beat out an infield single in his first at-bat Monday. For the second consecutive night, he struck out twice.
Once again, he declined to speak with reporters before the game.
"No thank you," Ramirez said. "Go to YouTube."
Ramirez came out after striking out in the fifth inning. In five minor league appearances, all sellouts, he went 3 for 10 with a home run and two runs scored.
Colletti doesn't expect Ramirez to be in peak form as soon as he returns.
"He's probably going to be a little bit rusty," Colletti said. "You can't expect him to miss 50 games and come right back.
"But it takes less time for the best players."
After consecutive games with temperatures above 100 degrees, Monday's game was played in a relatively pleasant 85 degrees.
Ramirez led off the bottom of the first by smacking a hard-hit bouncer deep into the hole between shortstop and third. Shortstop Andrew Romine made a nice stop and throw, but Ramirez just beat it.
He struck out swinging in his last two at-bats.
After Ramirez left the game, he was again escorted to his white SUV like a rock star, surrounded by security officers as fans screamed his name.
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