Dodgers' Ramirez hitless in return from suspension
BERNIE WILSON | 7/4/2009, 10:15 a.m.
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Manny Ramirez is back in the big leagues, looking like a guy who missed 50 games. Returning from his suspension for violating baseball's drug policy, the Los Angeles slugger barely hit the ball out of the infield in the Dodgers' 6-3 win over the San Diego Padres on Friday night.
He did provide a lot of energy to the team with baseball's best record.
"It was great," Ramirez said. "I was kind of nervous at first, but once I stepped to the plate I was fine."
With more than half the crowd at sold-out Petco Park wearing Dodger blue and cheering him on, Ramirez went 0 for 3 with a walk. The farthest he hit the ball was a popup that second baseman David Eckstein caught in shallow center field.
He showed a good eye during his first at-bat, fouling off three pitches before walking. Right-hander Chad Gaudin brushed back Ramirez with the first pitch. Ramirez just smiled.
It was a loud at-bat, with Dodgers fans standing and cheering, and Padres fans trying to drown them out with boos.
Ramirez expects to be in the lineup for Saturday afternoon's game.
"I need a couple more games under my belt. It's going to take time," he said.
"I thought the first-inning walk was amazing, considering the 2-2 count and he worked the walk," manager Joe Torre said. "I'd be a little jumpy if I were him. There's no question he's rusty. The only way you can play this game is practice it, and he really hasn't had a lot of practice."
Ramirez popped up to end the sixth, jogged to the dugout to get his glove and cap, then headed for the clubhouse, his night finished.
Ramirez was cheered when he caught Chase Headley's flyball to end the second inning. He took off his cap as he approached the dugout and gave a security guard a playful tap on the head with it.
The fan reaction "was great, man. It was the best. I want to thank all my fans," Ramirez said. "I think they drove from L.A. just to watch the game and to watch me. It was unbelievable."
Torre said he sensed the Dodgers were excited to have Ramirez back.
"It just feels like the atmosphere had little bubbles in it today, for me," Torre said. "So hopefully we can hold on to that for a while."
There didn't appear to be any problems with the crowd. Some fans brought signs, including one in the left-field stands that read "RAMROID," and some fans wore yellow T-shirts that crudely mocked the slugger.
Ramirez's ban was based on evidence he used human chorionic gonadotropin, a fertility drug that's banned by baseball, a person familiar with the suspension told The Associated Press after the suspension was announced on May 7, speaking on condition of anonymity because those details were not released.
HCG is popular among steroid users because it can mitigate the side effects of ending a cycle of the drugs.
Rafael Furcal had a season-high four hits for the Dodgers and Russell Martin drove in two runs.
"Obviously for the greater part of the season they're still the top in a lot of offensive categories," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "Manny makes them that much better."
Hiroki Kuroda and four relievers combined to hold the Padres to four hits. Jonathan Broxton pitched a perfect ninth for his 12th straight save and 20th in 22 chances.
The Dodgers took a 5-0 lead in the first on four hits, two walks and two throwing errors on the same play.
With Ramirez on first and Furcal on second, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez fielded Ethier's grounder and forced Ramirez. Shortstop Everth Cabrera's return throw was wide of Gonzalez and caromed off the stands for an error. Gaudin tracked it down and his throw home was wide of catcher Eliezer Alfonzo, allowing Furcal to score.
"I think I tried to do a little too much too early instead of staying within myself," Gaudin said. "It got me a little erratic in the first, but I settled down and tried to keep us in the ballgame as best I could."
James Loney and Martin had RBI singles, and Matt Kemp a two-run double.
Martin added an RBI single in the third.
Kuroda (3-4) allowed three runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings. Gaudin (4-7) allowed six runs and seven hits in five innings.
San Diego's Scott Hairson hit a solo homer in the fourth, his 10th. Gonzalez hit a two-run double in the sixth.
NOTES: San Diego RHP Cha Seung Baek threw 39 pitches in a simulated game Friday afternoon. He's on the 60-day disabled list with a strained right forearm. ... Furcal had been 4 for 25 in his previous eight games, including six starts.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.