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ManRam makes his spring training debut

March 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Manny Ramirez was surrounded by reporters in the Dodgers clubhouse after making his long-anticipated debut, when teammate Orlando Hudson questioned the necessity of the session. "What are you interviewing that guy for?" Hudson said after Los Angeles beat a Texas Rangers split squad 4-3 Friday. "All he did was walk. Walks, that's all we get? Big deal."

Houdson, of course, knew there was no bigger deal at the Dodgers' camp. It didn't matter that Ramirez, serving as the designated hitter, walked on five pitches in the first inning and six pitches in the third - he also had a single in the fifth.

What mattered was that the eccentric slugger was back on the field after agreeing last week to a $45 million, two-year contract, which he can void the deal after one season. His first spring start was pushed back a day because of tightness in his left hamstring.

"I was kind of nervous the first at-bat, Ramirez said, "especially when they are paying me $25 million to get base hits. I think that's not a good investment, but we'll see."

The crowd cheered loudly each time Ramirez walked to the plate. They booed just as loudly when Rangers starter Doug Mathis worked very carefully and off the plate.

"I told him he hasn't lost any of his flair from last year," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "That's pretty impressive for spring training."

Texas manager Ron Washington said the Rangers weren't trying to pitch around him, but Mathis acknowledged he didn't challenge Ramirez.

"I was just trying to sink him down and away," Mathis said. "I threw some good pitches that I either didn't get a call, or he didn't swing at. I wasn't going to give into him."

Ramirez scored in the first when Andre Ethier and James Loney followed his walk with singles and was wiped out on a double-play grounder in the third and fifth.

"I'm in spring training. I want to see a lot of pitches and get my timing down," Ramirez said. "I was ready for my pitch and they didn't give it to me. So I walked. No hard feelings.

"I can't control the fans (booing). They come to enjoy the game, so they gotta do what they gotta do," he said.

Ramirez ran the bases conservatively, trotting from second to third on Loney's single in the first.

"(My legs were) kind of heavy today," Ramirez said. "On the base hit, I didn't really want to push it going home so I said, 'Let me take my time and maybe tomorrow if I play the outfield I'll push it a little bit more."

Not just yet.

Torre said Ramirez won't play in either Saturday's main game against the Brewers or the morning "B" game with the White Sox. He's penciled in to play left field in Sunday's home game with Colorado.

"Manny's off he was on base three times today," Torre said.

The Rangers scored all their runs in the first inning off Dodger starter Chad Billingsley, who came in with a 1.29 ERA this spring but had trouble locating his pitches.

Josh Hamilton hit 450-foot, two-run homer to center with one out and Nelson Cruz followed with a homer almost as far to left-center.

Delwyn Young knocked in Jason Repko with a winning single in the ninth to end a game that featured 14 walks, eight of them by Dodgers pitchers.

Notes: RHP Cory Wade also made his Cactus League debut. Bothered by shoulder problems early in camp, Wade tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning C Russell Martin took Friday off and Torre said he will give Martin every other day off, especially since he reported some pain in the left foot that he sprained just prior to the opening of camp LHP Clayton Kershaw, Repko and INF Blake DeWitt were among the Dodgers who went to Jessica Simpson/Rascal Flats concert Thursday night not far from the complex.


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