Hanley Ramirez has cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Hanley Ramirez is still a few weeks away from joining the Dodgers’ lineup, but he’s making encouraging progress from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.

According to Tyler Emerick of MLB.com, Ramirez had the cast removed from his thumb yesterday. The 29-year-old reported feeling pain-free and has better range of motion than he originally expected.

“It feels awesome,” Ramirez said. “I’m definitely happy with it right now, the ligament has gotten a lot stronger already.”

Ramirez was already taking one-handed swings and fielding grounders prior to yesterday, but he should soon be able to test his thumb by making some throws. He will gradually increase his workload from there before going out on a minor league rehab assignment. Ramirez was given an eight-week timetable at the time of his surgery on March 22, so he’s likely looking at a return in late May.

Justin Sellers has functioned as the primary shortstop during Ramirez’s absence and is hitting .192 (5-for-26) with one home run in nine games.

Marlins option Tom Koehler to Triple-A, recall Hunter Cervenka

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Long-time rotation mainstay Tom Koehler was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Monday and reliever Hunter Cervenka was recalled, the Marlins announced.

Koehler, 31, made 131 starts out of the Marlins’ rotation over the last five years, but his 12 this season have not been good, so the club hopes he can figure things out with a stint in the minors. He’s carrying a 7.92 ERA with a 44/29 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. Koehler battled bursitis in his right shoulder in May and June, which may partially explain his struggles.

Cervenka, 27, posted a 4.50 ERA with a 34/21 K/BB ratio in 34 innings of relief with New Orleans. He hasn’t pitched in the majors yet this season, but compiled a 3.53 ERA over 43 1/3 innings in the bigs last year in the Marlins’ bullpen.

Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are interested in Pat Neshek

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At the trade deadline, relief pitching is the name of the game and one of the names clearly available is Pat Neshek. Today Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are among the clubs who are closely scouting the Phillies reliever. Last week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and Rays were involved as well.

Neshek is an impending free agent, so he may come cheaper than Justin Wilson or some of the other bullpen arms available right now. The All-Star is 36 and is posting a fantastic season, featuring a 1.12 ERA and 45/5 K/BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season.