SEATTLE -- Cleanup man and third baseman Aramis Ramirez is expected to return from the Brewers' disabled list on Tuesday in Texas a much healthier player than the last time he attempted a comeback.
The Brewers have missed a bat that produced 27 home runs, 105 RBIs and a National League-leading 50 doubles in 2012, Ramirez's debut season in Milwaukee. He has been bothered throughout 2013 by a sprained left knee originally suffered in Spring Training that forced stints on the disabled list in April and early May, and sent Ramirez back to the DL on July 8.
Playing through pain, Ramirez has been limited to five home runs, 26 RBIs and a .414 slugging percentage in 54 games. Manager Ron Roenicke is hoping for some production down the stretch.
"I know he's been out a long time and it's probably not ideal [to immediately reinstate Ramirez to the cleanup spot]," Roenicke said. "It's not ideal that he doesn't go out on rehab, either. But, sometimes, that's what we do."
Roenicke discussed with Ramirez the merits of taking some Minor League at-bats before returning. Ramirez would have been amenable, Roenicke said, had the Brewers been home and Class A Wisconsin were a convenient venue. But with the Brewers in the midst of a long road trip, Ramirez exercised his right to decline a rehab assignment.
Ramirez is closer to full strength now then he was on May 3, when he began his first comeback.
"I think that's why he's been out so long," Roenicke said. "He could have come back, certainly a couple of weeks ago, but if he did, he would not have been healthy again."
Roenicke plans to use Ramirez as the designated hitter for one game and at third base in another during the Brewers' brief two-game trip to Texas, but declined to reveal the order.
Ramirez spoke earlier on this road trip about finishing the season strong.
"We don't have much time left, and I want to play before I go home," Ramirez said in San Francisco last week. "Hopefully, we finish strong. [It is important] to every player. You don't want to go home hurt or think that you're hurt. You want to leave with some positives, at least playing, then rehab in the offseason and prepare for Spring Training."
Ramirez will earn $16 million next season in the final year of his contract, with $6 million of that total deferred. The deal includes a $14 million mutual option for 2015 with a $4 million buyout. The Brewers plan to wait until they arrive in Arlington to make the roster move required to activate Ramirez, Roenicke said.
Hand returns to relief role, impressed as starter
SEATTLE -- Right-hander Donovan Hand is the odd man out in the Brewers' suddenly crowded starting rotation, but made his mark during a brief stint as a starter before returning to a relief role.
"I like what he does," manager Ron Roenicke said. "He filled in really nice for us. I thought he threw a lot of good ballgames. He understands how to pitch.
"I think going forward with him, and I don't know what exactly we're going to do in the offseason, so it's hard to say exactly where his role fits in, but I really like him in the bullpen, for a long man, for filling in when you need a guy who can throw strikes, and knowing if something comes up, an emergency, he can go in there and spot start."
Hand was 0-4 with a 4.17 ERA in his seven starts. He surrendered nine home runs in 36 2/3 innings as a starter, but pitched five innings or more five times and limited opponents to three or fewer earned runs six times.
"I haven't done it in a long time, haven't started in a long time," said Hand, who had not started regularly since 2009 at Double-A Huntsville. "It's a learning curve. I'm learning things the hard way, the easy way sometimes. That's why they get paid the big bucks, to make those decisions, and whatever decision they make, I've got to go with."
"He did his part. I think he showed us he can pitch here," Roenicke said.
Aoki rests in finale against Mariners
SEATTLE -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said right fielder Norichika Aoki's day off on Sunday had nothing to do with Aoki's half-hearted swinging strikeout the night before. Aoki, who has a knack for showing when he requires a break, swung meekly at a Hisashi Iwakuma pitch amid the Brewers' six-run seventh inning on Saturday.
"It wasn't because of that," Roenicke said. "I thought about this the other day."
Aoki will get two days of rest because the Brewers are off on Monday before opening a two-game set with the Rangers in Texas. He is enjoying a solid second season in the Majors, batting .281 with a .341 on-base percentage while appearing in 111 of the Brewers' first 117 games.
"Sometimes, I like the two days," Roenicke said. "We've got a stretch where we play a week after this, and he's played a lot for us this year. I want to make sure he stays strong and finishes strong. He's always reacted well to the days I give him."
• Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said the team's two 16-year-old international signees, shortstop Franly Mallen and outfielder Nicolas Pierre, passed Major League Baseball's standard age investigation and formally signed their club-record-setting contracts.
Each earned $800,000 bonuses, the highest sum ever awarded by the Brewers to a Latin American player, and by rule will have to wait until next season to debut for the organization's Dominican Summer League team. Farm director Reid Nichols was on his way to the Dominican Republic this weekend to see the club finish its season.
• Roenicke offered to give center fielder Carlos Gomez the day off against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez on Sunday, but was turned down.
"He goes: 'No chance. I want to face Felix,'" Roenicke said.