SAN DIEGO -- Manny Ramirez made like Mark McGwire in his pregame media conference on Friday prior to returning to the Dodgers lineup from a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy, saying he didn't want to talk about the past."First, I want to say that God is good and good is God," Ramirez said, answering a question about his banned-substance use to open the 12-minute session at PETCO Park, before going 0-for-3 with a walk in the Dodgers' 6-3 victory over the Padres.
"I don't want to get into [that part of my] career. Right now, I'm happy to be here. I'm ready to play. I practiced at Triple-A, and I can't wait to get out on the field."
Ramirez walked in his first plate appearance to a mixture of boos and cheers with several Dodgers fans having made the trip to San Diego. He was retired in his next three at-bats before departing in the sixth inning.
On May 7, Ramirez was suspended under MLB's drug policy for using a performance-enhancing drug later identified in media reports as human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which he said was a female fertility drug prescribed by a doctor.The penalty of 50 games under the policy is for the first infraction. The second is 100 games and a third calls for a lifetime suspension with a right to seek reinstatement after two years. Once he apologized to Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his teammates, Ramirez began working out and preparing for his return, which included a 10-game Minor League rehab stint. To repeated questions Friday about his performance-enhancing drug use, Ramirez said he believes he owes no further explanation to his legion of fans, which in Los Angeles have supported him in droves. "I don't think so, because I've already said I'm sorry," said Ramirez, wearing reflective sunglasses for the indoor presser because "I wanted to." McGwire said at a Congressional hearing in 2005 that he didn't want to speak about the past when asked by public officials about his alleged PED use. With his agent, Scott Boras, sitting silently by his side, Ramirez played the same card. Asked if he had been contacted by the U.S. Drug Administration about how he procured the drug that caused the positive test, Ramirez said: "I can't say. I don't want to talk about my record. I just want to talk about the game." Asked if he knew the name of a particular Miami doctor who prescribed the drug for Ramirez, he said, quizzically: "I don't want to talk about my criminal record."
He then laughed.Asked how tough it was to sit out for 50 games, he said: "It was tough. But it's over. I'm moving on." Asked if steroids were bad for the game, Ramirez said: "I'm not talking about that, sir. I just want to talk about the game. If you want to talk about the game, I'm in my locker. If you want to talk about anything [else], Scott is there to answer your questions. I'm moving on." Then asked what he apologized to his teammates and the fans for, Ramirez added: "Not being there for them. Not being there to play the game. I'm a huge part of the Dodgers and I'm proud to wear that uniform. I said sorry because I let those fans down. They go out there to see me play." At the time of his suspension, Ramirez was batting .348 with six home runs. He missed a good portion of Spring Training in a protracted contract squabble with the Dodgers, finally signing a two-year deal on March 4 that could be worth as much as $45 million. Now he has missed 50 games, and even the always-confident Ramirez said it's going to take some time for him get his legs and swing back. Thus, he would take his first few games, "inning by inning." "I feel great," he said. "I know it's going to take some time. I've got plenty of energy. I haven't played for 50 games. I'll be good. I'll be all right." Ramirez said that he was embarrassed by the suspension, but again he added that the incident was in the past, "And I'm not bringing it back." He said he wasn't surprised by the outpouring of affection from the Dodger fans, not after the events of last season. The Dodgers were 41-44 a year ago Friday and were looking for a boost. Only minutes prior to the July 31 Trade Deadline, they obtained Ramirez from the Red Sox, who paid the remainder of his contract just to get him out of Boston. Ramirez went on to bat .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs the last two months of the regular season and then hit .520 with four postseason homers in leading the Dodgers into their first National League Championship Series since 1988. They lost, though, to the eventual World Series-winning Phillies in five games. "[Dodgers fans] know that when I step on the field that I'm going to give it all I've got," Ramirez said. "They're the best fans in the world and I wish I could have played in [Los Angeles] a long time ago. I'm not surprised because I'm one of the best players who ever put on the uniform."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.