Manny hits first spring homer
Torre plans to return Ramirez to left field Wednesday vs. Brewers
PHOENIX -- Manny Ramirez slugged his first home run in only his second game since returning from a strained hamstring muscle but was more pleased with a flyout to the warning track.
"I'm just happy I run with the fly ball a little more and it was fine," Ramirez said Tuesday after the Dodgers played the Mariners. "I'm just concerned with my leg more than anything else. If I stay healthy, everything else will take care of itself. I'll test it tomorrow in the outfield. Big day tomorrow."
Manager Joe Torre said he plans to return Ramirez to left field for Wednesday's game on the road against the Milwaukee Brewers and "keep my fingers crossed." It was while playing left field on March 15 for the first time this spring that Ramirez aggravated the hamstring.
But earlier this spring, Brewers manager Ken Macha said he would not agree to play with the designated hitter for a game against the Dodgers. So if Ramirez is to play, he'll have to play the outfield.
"He's making the trip tomorrow," Torre said. "We'll try it, to play the outfield tomorrow."
Ramirez, serving as designated hitter Tuesday night, homered in the first inning off Seattle's Ryan Rowland-Smith. In his second at-bat, Ramirez was hit on the foot by a slow curve from the Mariners' left-hander. In his third and final at-bat, he flied out to the track in left-center and accelerated as he rounded first base with no ill effects to the left hamstring.
He said he wasn't impressed with his line-drive blast that jumped out of Camelback Ranch in its first-ever night game.
"Anybody can go deep in March," he said, repeating a line from Casey Blake, who also homered Tuesday night. "I'm just seeing pitches and getting my timing down and getting ready for the season."
Torre said he's convinced Ramirez's two strikeouts the previous day were almost intentional, speculating that Ramirez was tracking pitches.
"But Donnie [Mattingly, hitting coach] told him he'd get him fired, so he swung today," Torre said.
Playing Wednesday would mean Ramirez would play three consecutive games, and a day game after a night game, as he returns from a tight hamstring that kept him out of games for a week.
While that workload might not sound ideal for a 36-year-old player coming off a leg injury, the decision apparently was influenced by the fact that Thursday's game is against the Rockies in Tucson, Ariz., which would mean a 90-minute bus ride. And Ramirez wants his plate appearances, having had only seven so far.
Torre said Ramirez has been running in pregame drills the past few days with no issues, made it down the first-base line on a double-play grounder Monday with no relapse and should be fine if he plays the outfield smart.
"It's OK if he goes out there and he's not worried about people saying, 'He's loafing after the ball,'" Torre said. "If he plays, we'll encourage him to be measured with what he does. Let the ball go to the wall."
Ramirez, though, said he doesn't want to play safety-first in the outfield and will cut off balls if the situation arises.
"Maybe I want to test it, maybe I want to run a little," he said. "It's hard to pace myself."
Ramirez said his lower body came up sore when he tried to rush his conditioning after arriving 2 1/2 weeks later than his teammates following a long contract negotiation. He made things worse trying to cut off a double in the left-field corner the first game he played in the outfield.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.