In his ninth game with Triple-A Sacramento, Manny Ramirez went 2-for-4 with a pair of sharply hit singles, a lineout to right field, and a long fly ball to right-center than was less than five feet from clearing the fence, which would have been his first extra-base hit.
"Today's were the best swings he took," River Cats manager Darren Bush said after Monday's game.
Yoenis Cespedes hit the third pitch he saw since landing on the 15-day DL May 7 sharply up the middle in the first inning for his only hit of the game. He struck out swinging and popped to first before being replaced by Michael Taylor. Bush said before the game it was unlikely Cespedes would play the whole game after missing exactly three weeks.
The Oakland A's management requested Cespedes play left field Monday, instead of his natural position of center field, Bush said. No reason was given, but Bush indicated that it could have been done to save him from extra running he would have to do in center.
But the possibility exists that the team could be experimenting with the idea of having Cespedes play left field on a more permanent basis. That would put Coco Crisp back in center, where he's played very well his whole career despite having a very poor throwing arm.
Ramirez was jovial before the game, volunteering his time with reporters and tipping Chris Carter's hat for him when his name was announced during pregame introductions. The team's mood with Ramirez around has been upbeat and positive.
"He's such an outgoing and affable individual. He fits in with the group. There's not a whole of, ‘I'm Manny Ramirez. I've done this and this," Taylor said. "He's just here because he loves playing baseball."
Ramirez disputed the notion that he's here teaching some of the young players about hitting, but the example he's set with the time he puts into his craft has not gone unnoticed by the players and coaches.
"I think that guys are watching how he goes about his business: relaxed," Bush said.
"The guy works. He works extremely hard. He's out on the field running, he's in the cage taking swings, he's watching video, talking about hitting constantly. I think they see that, even though he may be relaxed and he has a reputation of being relaxed and being laid back, the guy works his butt off."
Cespedes, hitting second in front of Ramirez, got his hit in the first inning. He was doubled off at first when he attempted to steal second on a pitch that Ramirez lined out to the right fielder. Ramirez went on to single in his next two at-bats, with one up the middle and another he hit sharply to left field between the shortstop and third baseman in the fifth.
That hit was significant, because it was his first hit to left field since his rehab stint began. Bush said he was impressed because Ramirez was able to turn on a fastball. In Ramirez's final at-bat of the day, he took a 2-1 pitch from former A's prospect Sam Demel deep to right-center field, where the ball was caught just in front of the wall. Raley Field is one of the few ballparks in the Pacific Coast League that would have kept that ball from being a home run.
"It's going to take time, but I'm getting there slowly," Ramirez said before the game. "The only way you're going to get it is going out and facing pitchers. I'm getting myself out. Something's going to click, and all of a sudden you're there."
After the game, both Bush and Ramirez said they didn't know if he would get the call to join the A's on Wednesday when the team finishes up a series in Minnesota. The team has an off-day Thursday before beginning a series in Kansas City over the weekend.
Later in the day, the A's announced that Ramirez would not be activated on Wednesday. Instead, he will join the River Cats' active 25-man roster on Wednesday and will be evaluated by Oakland daily until the team determines that Ramirez is ready to play at the big league level. Oakland currently has an open spot on its 40-man roster, as the team designated reliever Neil Wagner for assignment and he was claimed off of waivers by the San Diego Padres.
If the A's elect to keep Ramirez and Cespedes in the minor leagues until Friday, they will be able to play in two more games with the River Cats where they can get comfortable before being thrown into the big league fire.
For more of James Venes' photos of Monday's River Cats' game versus Trevor Bauer and the Reno Aces, visit lastoftheninth.com.