Ramos on track for Sunday return after sim game

Ramos on track for Sunday return after sim game

PITTSBURGH -- Marlins All-Star reliever A.J. Ramos passed his final test Friday on his road to returning from a fractured finger. The right-hander threw a 24-pitch simulated game at PNC Park, and signs are pointing to him being reinstated on Sunday for the series finale with the Pirates.

Ramos, who last pitched on Aug. 5, has been on the disabled list with a fracture to his right third finger. Based on how he looked, being back on Sunday is realistic.

"I had minimal pain," Ramos said. "That's probably the best I've felt since before I hurt it. I threw 24 pitches and had control of all my pitches. It went good. I was happy with it."

If the Marlins can get Ramos back to his All-Star form, it would greatly strengthen an already overworked bullpen. In recent weeks, it was thinned by Ramos' injury and the organizational decision to move David Phelps from a setup role to the rotation.

Manager Don Mattingly was impressed with the performance and sounded optimistic about a Sunday return.

"A lot of balls in the zone, right off the edges," Mattingly said. "It looked like his command was good. Pitches were sharp. Now, it's just really a matter of him bouncing back tomorrow."

Several batters stepped in, without swinging, for Ramos' simulated game.

"I just wanted to see hitters in there because my bullpens [stink] a lot," Ramos said. "I need somebody in there to give me a better feel for it. My arm felt great. My finger felt great, and I was around the zone, which I was happy about."

One batter raised Ramos' adrenaline level: Hitting coach Barry Bonds tracked a few pitches.

"Bonds got to step in there, and get me some feedback," Ramos said, then quipping he would have struck him out.

Ramos, who has 32 saves in 34 chances, compiled a 3.05 ERA in 47 outings with 56 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings.

Since Ramos has been out, Fernando Rodney has gone 5-for-5 in save opportunities after closing Friday's 6-5 win over the Pirates.

When Ramos returns, the Marlins will have to make a decision. Mattingly wants to make sure his closer is healthy and sharp. Ramos notes he prefers to close, but only if he isn't laboring due to his injury.

"Obviously, I want to help the team win," Ramos said. "If I'm normal, I want to close. If I'm a little bit around the zone, Fernando has been doing a great job. I don't want to mess up any of the positives that we've gained by me going in there and not feeling well and kind of messing up the game."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.