Notes: Ramirez activated from DL
Third baseman homers in his first at-bat back from injury
CHICAGO -- Aramis Ramirez was activated from the disabled list before Friday's game and used as the designated hitter, which he'll likely do for the rest of the weekend to avoid re-aggravating his left knee.
Ramirez had been on the disabled list since June 7. He'll wear a brace on his left knee for the remainder of the season. His knee doesn't bother him hitting, but running is another matter.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," Ramirez said. "I don't know how my leg is going to react."
"Hopefully, he'll come back swinging the bat and give us a lift offensively," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Friday. "We'll DH him as much as possible this weekend. Once we get back to the National League, we'll see what workload he can handle. I anticipate we'll have to rest him from time to time."
Ramirez gave the Cubs a lift in the first inning, hitting his 14th home run off White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle.
Ramirez first injured his knee on May 12, when he stepped on a bag wrong in Philadelphia. He's not 100 percent improved, but back to how he was before he aggravated it June 6 in Milwaukee.
Pitcher Sean Gallagher was optioned to Triple-A Iowa after Thursday's game to make room on the roster for Ramirez. Gallagher appeared in three games, totaling 5 2/3 innings, during his callup.
"I learned more about the game in these days and about myself," said Gallagher, who will start for Iowa, making his first one on Sunday.
"Until you actually experience it, it's like nothing you've ever done," he said about playing in the big leagues. "I can't liken anything to it."
Numbers game: The Cubs now have 11 pitchers, and can stay with that number through the weekend. Because the pitcher doesn't hit, they don't have to worry about double switches.
But they'll be back to 12 very soon.
"It hasn't worked when we've tried [11 pitchers] before," Piniella said.
It's tough to figure out what the Cubs will do. Mike Fontenot was batting .348 since his callup, and has played solid defense at second. With Ramirez back, the infield is crowded, and Mark DeRosa may be playing some right field. Fontenot can play shortstop if needed. What will they do?
"I can't figure it out either," Piniella said. "We'll see what happens with this thing. We haven't even discussed it."
Step by step: Catcher Henry Blanco played catch Friday, the first time he's done any baseball-related activities since he was sidelined with a herniated disk in his neck.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said it's a "50-50" chance as to whether Blanco can return.
"It's a shame what's happened to him," Piniella said of Blanco. "This guy is a good catcher and we've missed him. He handles the pitching staff well. The big thing with Henry is get him well so he can function as a human being -- forget catching."
Blanco has had three cortisone shots in his neck this season. That's not an option any more.
"We'll see what happens in the next couple days," Blanco said. "If I don't feel good, then the next step would be surgery."
And that could be career-ending.
On Friday, new Cubs catcher Rob Bowen was matched up with Carlos Zambrano for the first time. Koyie Hill had been paired with Zambrano in the right-hander's last three starts.
"Bowen is a nice catcher, and he's got good hands back there," Piniella said. "He's got to familiarize himself, and the quicker he familiarizes himself, the better. I don't think he'll have any problems. He's a good receiver and takes pride in his pitching staff."
After the Cubs traded Michael Barrett to San Diego on Wednesday, there were comments that Piniella was exceptionally hard on his catchers. Piniella was surprised at the statements.
"Ask Barrett. Ask Henry," Piniella said. "I haven't said a word to anybody here. Lou wants to see things done right. That's all. That's all Lou wants. If you do things right, you win baseball games. I had a great relationship with Michael, I really did."
Extra bases: Hitting coach Gerald Perry was back on the bench, having served his suspension for his involvment in the fracas at Wrigley Field last Saturday between the Cubs and Padres. ... Angel Guzman has started throwing in Mesa, Ariz. He's been on the disabled list since June 2 with a strained right elbow.
Minor matters: What a night for Mark Holliman on Thursday. The Double-A Tennessee right-hander no-hit Huntsville in the first game of a doubleheader. Holliman faced one batter more than the minimum over seven innings -- the only blemish was a leadoff walk in the third. He struck out three to pick up his seventh win as the Smokies won, 3-0.
Tennessee won the second game, 4-2, as Issmael Salas and Casey McGehee each had two hits.
Ryan O'Malley gave up six runs on eight hits over five innings in Triple-A Iowa's 7-4 loss to Nashville. Micah Hoffpauir had two hits, including his third homer in as many games. Geovany Soto had a double. He was named to the World team for the All-Star Futures Game, which will be played July 8. ... Joel Santo gave up three runs on seven hits over seven inings in Brevard County's 6-2 win over Class A Daytona. ... Robert Hernandez gave up two runs on three hits over five innings in Class A Peoria's 3-1 loss to Beloit. ... Class A Boise scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth, but lost 5-4 to Salem-Keizer. Dylan Johnston had three hits.
On deck: Lefty Rich Hill will start Game 2 of this three-game Interleague series with the White Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on Comcast Sports Net.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.