Ramirez, Johnson Talk about Rehab

PEORIA — This may not be home to Wrigley Field, but the atmosphere inside O'Brien Field this July 4 weekend matched the excitement of a major league game.

Chicago Cubs All-Star third baseman Aramis Ramirez and fan favorite outfielder Reed Johnson joined the Peoria Chiefs for a rehab stint before rejoining the parent club.

Ramirez has been sidelined since early May with an injured left shoulder, while Johnson has been out since June 20 with back spasms. Ramirez ended his rehab assignment going 3 for 6 with three walks. Johnson was 2 for 6 with one walk.

Both players said they are eager to get back to Chicago.

"(My shoulder) tested pretty good," Ramirez said. "Playing defense, I don't think I am going to have any problems. Swinging the bat was the key and it feels pretty good. If I don't feel confident about it, I won't be playing. I'm going up (to Chicago Monday) and do the best I can."

"Basically what these rehab stints are all about is getting that confidence back as far as playing hard and playing the game like you did before the injury," Johnson said. "(Sliding) is all natural for me now. I don't have to think about (the back) at all.

"I know that's when I am at my best; when I don't have to think about it at all and really run around the bases with nothing on my mind rather than just thinking about trying to be safe. I'll be ready to go (Monday) against Atlanta."

Ramirez and Johnson enjoyed making the trip to Peoria together. The last time Peoria had two major league players rehabbing at the same time was July 2007 when Kerry Wood and Henry Blanco were coming back from injuries.

"It was nice having Reed down here with me so he can pick up some of the checks at the restaurants," Ramirez joked. "Reed is a great guy. Just seeing him play hard out there sets a good example for the kids out here."

Johnson and Ramirez are not the only ones who benefited from their rehab starts. By playing with the Chiefs, it gave the Peoria players a chance to pick the brains of the major leaguers and pick up some valuable information.

"I was there, too. I saw guys come down my first year in the league," Ramirez said. "If you're smart, you're going to ask questions. This game is more mental than anything else. Everybody tries to ask questions and we try to help them out as much as we can."

Playing in Peoria gave Johnson a chance to play for a familiar face. He played for Chiefs manager Marty Pevey on his way through the Toronto Blue Jays system.

In 2000, Johnson played under Pevey at Class High-A Dunedin and then again in 2002. From 2005-2007, Johnson worked with Pevey when he was an outfielder for the Blue Jays; Pevey was the first and third base coach separately those years.

"(Pevey) is one of those managers that you want to play for on an everyday basis," Johnson said. "He has the respect from his players and he has been that same guy I knew in Toronto that I knew in A-ball. He's been a big influence on my career and hopefully we'll see him again one day in the big leagues."

Pevey said he is still impressed with Johnson's work ethic.

"He was in the cage (Saturday) for an hour on the curveball machine with (Chiefs infielder Jose) Made," Pevey said. "The first game he played in against Kane County, he got on base off of a walk, (Josh) Harrison hit a deep drive to right field and the fielder caught it over his shoulder. Reed was halfway to third and had to back track. He slid back into first and the throw was high and Reed beat out the first baseman.

"The next time up, he broke up a double play and flipped the second baseman over him. This is a big leaguer doing this in a minor league rehab assignment. How many times do you see that?"

After watching Ramirez and Johnson play, Pevey said they are ready to get back to Chicago and compete.

"Ramirez looked outstanding. He wasn't jumping; he was staying back on the ball," Pevey stated. "Reed worked his butt off here. They did a good job. They did everything they were supposed to do."

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