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Relieved, happy Manny is the Dodgers' No. 99, with a flourish

LOS ANGELES -- Manny Ramirez showed up at Dodger Stadium
with a new attitude, a new number and a willingness to cut his
flowing dreadlocks.

"I feel great, man. I'm happy," Ramirez told some 200 media
members behind home plate about three hours before making his debut
with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night. "Whatever happened
in Boston is in the past. I'm excited, man. I can't wait. I feel
like I took 5,000 pounds off my back.

"It's just a new chapter in my life. I'm happy to be here.
That's all I can say. LA's a great city. I'm happy to be a
Dodger."

The Dodgers acquired the future Hall of Famer from the
exasperated Red Sox a day earlier, giving up two minor leaguers in
a shocking three-team trade that sent outfielder Jason Bay from
Pittsburgh to Boston.

Ramirez said he spoke with former teammates David Ortiz and
Julio Lugo after the trade was announced, and harbored no
bitterness toward the Red Sox.

"I want to say something from the bottom of my heart," Ramirez
said. "I want to thank the fans in Boston. I love you guys. I just
want to move on. I'm thinking Blue right now, I'm thinking about
the Dodgers. I want people to judge me on what I do here, not what
I did in Boston."

Ramirez sidestepped a question regarding a report that veteran
Boston players had told upper management that he needed to go.

Ramirez played with the Cleveland Indians from 1993-2000 before
signing an eight-year, $160 million contract with the Red Sox.

"I'm in a new league," he said. "I'm just going to do my
best."

When asked what changes he might make, Ramirez laughed and
replied: "I'm going to start maybe stealing some bases. I don't go
deep anymore. I just hit line drives to right field."

Ramirez has one stolen base this season -- his first since 2005.

The 36-year-old Ramirez, among baseball's career leaders in
several categories, answered questions in English and Spanish
before ending the availability after less than 15 minutes by
saying: "Can I go and get something to eat, get ready for the
game?"

Manager Joe Torre, whose Yankees teams went against Ramirez
countless times, put the eccentric slugger in his customary left
field and cleanup spot against Arizona's Randy Johnson.

"I'm like a little kid now, I'm kind of nervous," Ramirez
said. "I'm just going to be Manny and play the game."

Ramirez, who wore No. 24 during his seven-plus seasons in
Boston, will wear No. 99 in Los Angeles. Hall of Fame manager
Walter Alston wore No. 24 with the Dodgers, and that jersey is
retired.

"I don't know why they gave me 99," he said. "I wanted 34."

No. 34, worn by Fernando Valenzuela in the 1980s, isn't
officially retired, but clubhouse manager Mitch Poole said: "In
our hearts, it is, and in the Mexican community. It was 66, then it
went to 99 in a matter of minutes. It was all through the agent
[Scott Boras] and his staff."

Asked about Torre, Ramirez said: "I've played a lot against
him. I'll let you know in a month. We went through some
conversation."

Torre said he asked Ramirez how important his hair was to him
and was told he'd do whatever the manager wanted. Torre said he
asked Ramirez to "clean it up a little bit and make it
manageable."

"I've got to cut it. I'm going to be looking like a baby,"
Ramirez said with a smile. "I don't want them to treat me
different than the other guys. If they want me to cut it, I'll cut
it. It will grow back."

Torre asked the same of reliever Joe Beimel in spring training.

To make room for Ramirez on their roster, the Dodgers placed
infielder Nomar Garciaparra on the 15-day disabled list retroactive
to last Monday because of a sprained ligament in his left knee.
Ramirez and Garciaparra were teammates in Boston from 2001-04.

They exchanged greetings in the clubhouse.

"It was good to see him," Garciaparra said. "I told him we'd
catch up later."

Regarding the need for Ramirez to leave Boston, Garciaparra
said: "You have to separate the desire to get out of Boston and
the desire to get out of the situation."

Ramirez asked to be traded several times in recent years. The
Red Sox will pay the estimated $7 million owed to Ramirez through
the end of the season, at which time he can become a free agent.
Ramirez was in the final guaranteed year of his contract, and the
Red Sox held $20 million options for the next two seasons. Those
were eliminated with the trade.

"Anything is possible now," Ramirez said, when asked if he
hoped to finish his career with the Dodgers. "I'm just going to
play hard. We'll see what happens."

Boras said what happens beyond this season hasn't been
discussed.

"Our entire focus, believe me, was resolving the situation,"
the agent said.

Among active players, Ramirez ranks third in RBIs (1,672), fifth
in home runs (510), sixth in on-base percentage (.409) and seventh
in batting average (.312). He also ranks eighth in baseball
history, and second among active players behind only Albert Pujols
(.620), with a .590 slugging percentage. His 2,318 hits rank 10th
among active players and his 493 doubles are tied for fourth.

Ramirez was MVP of the 2004 World Series, when the Red Sox
became champions for the first time in 86 years, and played a key role in another World Series triumph last year.

"He'll make a difference in any lineup," Garciaparra said.
"The best lineups in baseball, he'll have an impact."