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06/23/09 7:00 PM ET

Aramis expected to take live BP on Friday

Out since May 9, Cubs slugger showing improvement

DETROIT -- Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez will likely take live batting practice on Friday when the team plays at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.

Ramirez, who has been sidelined since May 9 with a dislocated left shoulder, has stepped up his rehab but wasn't expected to be ready to hit while the team was in Detroit for three games, starting Tuesday.

"Once we get to that stage, it's just a matter of when he goes out for a rehab assignment," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Ramirez. "He's going to have to go out and play and get some at-bats. It's been too long a time."

The first step is live batting practice. Ramirez has been able to handle soft toss.

"He's feeling much better, and he's been working and we can start seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with this thing," Piniella said.

Outfielder Reed Johnson remained sidelined because of back problems and will most likely miss the Detroit series.

"It was just kind of stiff one day, and it got worse over a three-day period [during the Cleveland series]," Johnson said. "We decided the best thing was to sit so it will settle down. I'd like to say I'll definitely be ready by Friday."

Johnson has been helpful to the Cubs in other ways. He's supplementing the scouting reports for the Interleague games with info he has from his days in the American League.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.