A’s planning for Manny Ramirez’s return in three weeks

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Manny Ramirez has kept a remarkably low profile while serving the first half of his 50-game suspension, but he’s now about three weeks away from being eligible to return and about two weeks from likely beginning a minor-league rehab assignment.

Ramirez is currently working out at extended spring training and his suspension ends on May 30, with Jim Hawkins of MLB.com reporting that the A’s will soon send him on a 10-game rehab stint to prepare.

Manager Bob Melvin told Hawkins that once Ramirez is eligible to play “DH has been his role and that’s what we envision him doing.”

Six different players have started at designated hitter for the A’s through 29 games, led by Seth Smith with 14 starts, and the position has combined for a .228 batting average with three homers and a .709 OPS.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.