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3B Aramis Ramirez eases into Brewers camp after surgery to remove non-cancerous polyp

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PHOENIX - Aramis Ramirez went on contact, jogging lightly into third base. Immediately, Milwaukee Brewers coach Ed Sedar checked in on the long-time veteran.

"How 'ya feeling Rammy, OK?" Wearing sunglasses on a bright afternoon, Ramirez smiled.

Ramirez is set back a little in spring training, but that's a relatively minor concern for the 35-year-old third baseman because he had a non-cancerous polyp removed from his colon in early January. Doctors told Ramirez it would take about eight weeks to fully recover, and that timetable is nearing an end.

While Ramirez knew right away that the tumour wasn't cancerous, just having the polyp found was a scary experience.

"It was, because I never had surgery before. That was my first one and hopefully my last one," Ramirez said.

But this won't be his last checkup. Ramirez's father died of colon cancer.

"I wanted to get checked out because usually it's a family thing," Ramirez said Saturday, the first day of full-team workouts. "Sure enough, I didn't have cancer, but I had a polyp."

"I have to get checked out every year again, and we'll go from there," he added.

Ramirez took some swings and fielded groundballs on Saturday, and otherwise probably did most everything that any player does at this point in the spring, except that manager Ron Roenicke advised one of his oldest position players to take it easy on the first day.

Ramirez will likely miss the first few spring training games, which start Thursday. It will be up to doctors and Ramirez to determine when he's ready to take the next step.

"He's in good spirits. He's not really restricted in what he can do," Roenicke said. "It's just the effort that how he goes about it."

Until the surgery, Ramirez was focusing on strengthening his lower body after being bothered all last season by a sprained left knee. Ramirez was limited to 92 games, but still put up numbers that had him on pace for a decent year even with the nagging injury, with 12 homers, 49 RBIs and a .283 average.

Ramirez is a notoriously slow starter. Surgery aside, Roenicke said he may "take it easier" on Ramirez anyway this spring because of his knees and "just all his physical parts of it we need to watch." Ramirez can get extra swings in minor league camp if he needs.

But just having him back is welcome news to the Brewers, who finished an injury-filled 2013 season at 74-88. Outfielder Ryan Braun is also back, from a suspension for violating Major League Baseball's anti-drug agreement. That means Milwaukee should have its third- and fourth-place hitters in the lineup again when the new season starts in the tough NL Central.

"Our overall perception is that other teams in the division got weaker and we got stronger," owner Mark Attanasio said before taking in first-day workouts. "We'll see if that's true. But we clearly got stronger."

After the season, Ramirez and his agent may talk with the front office about a new deal — the sides have a mutual option for next year. But he doesn't seem too concerned by his contract status, though Ramirez does know he wants to keep playing.

"It's hard to play when you're not 100 per cent. When you're playing on one leg, it's a lot harder," Ramirez said. "Like I (said), if I'm healthy, everything should be OK."

NOTES: When asked, Roenicke singled out RH starter Kyle Lohse and LH reliever Zach Duke as pitchers who have thrown well during batting practice. "Good movement, really nice breaking ball," Roenicke said about Duke, in camp on a minor league contract. ... The Brewers plan to play a three-inning intrasquad game on Tuesday.

___

Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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