Manny getting back in swing
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- There's been some talk about whether Manny Ramirez's legs would be ready for his return to baseball.
It didn't take long Wednesday night to put that to the test.
Ramirez grounded out and walked, making him hitless in three at-bats during his two games in Albuquerque with the Los Angels Dodgers' top farm club. He also ran to catch a fly and fielded a ball off the left-field wall.
Ramirez is on assignment in the minors this week after a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug rules.
"I haven't played for three months," Ramirez said. "I've got to get ready. It's not the same when you're in the outfield standing up. You saw me. I was running. I was hitting. But it's not like playing a game when you go four innings."
Nashville's leadoff batter, Jason Bourgeois, flied to left on a rainy evening and Ramirez backpedaled and tracked the ball for an easy catch as Albuquerque fans cheered an otherwise routine effort.
When Ramirez led off for Albuquerque, he walked on four pitches from Nashville right-hander Tim Dillard -- drawing loud boos. Ramirez reached second on Chin-Lung Hu's sacrifice bunt but the Isotopes couldn't bring him across to score.
Ramirez chased Adam Heether's double off the wall in the second before grounding out to end the third. Over his four innings, his mobility looked good and his legs showed no apparent side effects from three months off.
"I'm getting ready to play the game, physically and mentally," he said. "The first thing is getting my legs ready to play."
One night after a record capacity crowd of 15,321 turned out to see Ramirez, Wednesday's attendance was 13,076.
Ramirez, who also played four innings on Tuesday, is expected to go seven innings Thursday in his final Albuquerque appearance.
In Chicago, Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Ramirez will return to California on Friday to join the Dodgers' Single-A team for a game Saturday at Lake Elsinore. Ramirez then will play three home games in San Bernardino.
He's expected to rejoin the Dodgers on July 3 in San Diego.
Los Angeles has the best record in the majors and the Dodgers are 26-17 without Ramirez, but the slugger said he hasn't felt added pressure while preparing to rejoin his major league teammates.
"I want to get into shape," Ramirez said. "That's what I want to do. They're playing great. I don't have to go and worry about, 'Oh, I've got to do this or I've got to do that.'"
Isotopes manager Tim Wallach said Ramirez has been a positive influence in the minor league clubhouse, talking with younger hitters about what he does to be successful at the plate.
"He's spending a lot of time with them," Wallach said. "I saw him do that in spring training as well with older guys, younger guys. He shares the knowledge, tells guys what works for him."
Wallach also said with Ramirez in town there's even been a benefit from the added media presence around Albuquerque's clubhouse.
"This is good for guys to experience," Wallach said. "I don't think this is a bad thing. You get into the playoffs, that sort of stuff at the next level, you're going to have this. You're going to have to know how to deal with it."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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