LOS ANGELES -- Hideo Nomo, who blazed the trail for fellow Japanese ballplayers when he came to the Dodgers in 1995, was honored Saturday with a bobblehead and pregame ceremony at Dodger Stadium.
Nomo, now 44, was 26 when he fought the Japanese reserve system and was signed by Peter O'Malley and the Dodgers, winning the Rookie of the Year Award and leading the league in strikeouts. He spent 6 1/2 of his 12 Major League seasons with the Dodgers in a pair of stints.
Nomo is credited not only with starting an influx of players from Japan, but elevating baseball's awareness of players throughout the Pacific Rim, leading to expanded scouting of Australia, Taiwan and South Korea, where current Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu -Ryu starred.
"I believe Japanese players are able to play in the Major Leagues because Mr. Nomo opened the door for us," former Dodger and current Yankee Hiroki Kuroda said in a video tribute. "Thank you for making it possible for all of us."
Nomo typically downplayed his impact on connecting Japanese players and fans with Major League Baseball, often drawing comparisons to the way Fernando Valenzuela made MLB accessible to Mexican fans.
"I'm not really sure I had impact," he said. "Watching Major League Baseball in Japan on TV and seeing All-Star teams touring, at the time there was no way you thought you could perform at this level. TV and the tours had the impact."
Nomo said when he played he didn't do it with the intent of breaking down barriers.
"I was thinking about performing, not about the players to follow," he said. "It started with Peter O'Malley, Tom Lasorda and the staff that supported me and made it easy for me to concentrate on baseball."
Nomo said he spends his retirement mostly with the family and working with an amateur baseball team in Japan.
The pregame ceremony included his first pitch to former teammate and current FOX broadcaster Eric Karros, complete with Nomo's trademark twirling "Tornado" windup.
"Normally on the field I'm not nervous," Nomo said during a news conference. "Today, I'm a little bit nervous and excited."
Hanley's return depends on response to fielding
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers will have a better indication on Hanley Ramirez and his progression from a sore right shoulder on Sunday, when the shortstop plans to throw and field ground balls.
Ramirez has been out of the starting lineup for six straight games since injuring his shoulder chasing a popup into the stands at Wrigley Field last Sunday. He was able to pinch-hit Friday night and played catch before the game, but has yet to take grounders. The Dodgers did not work out on the field Friday or Saturday.
"I'm not sure how much closer he is," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said on Saturday. "We'll probably find out tomorrow, get back out on the field and he'll be able to throw and take ground balls."
Mattingly said Ramirez felt "a little bit" of discomfort in his shoulder after playing catch Friday but remains confident the shortstop is not headed to the disabled list for a third time this season.
"We'll be careful with him," the manager said. "I wouldn't have used him if I thought this was a DL situation. I don't think it is."
Howell relishes scoreless outing vs. former club
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell caught up with his former Rays teammates before Friday's game and then pitched against them.
Howell, who played six seasons with the Rays before joining the Dodgers this year, entered in the fifth inning with two on and two outs and the Dodgers trailing, 6-0. The left-hander induced a flyout from James Loney and intentionally walked Jose Molina, his former catcher, to load the bases and face Tampa Bay starter David Price.
It was a matchup Howell had been eagerly anticipating.
"It was awesome, me and him were pretty good friends," Howell said.
Howell struck out Price on three pitches.
"I had to give him my best curveball," Howell said. "He's such a great pitcher, the only way to humble him really is to get him in the batter's box."
Howell helped keep the Rays from putting the game out of reach, and Brandon League followed with two scoreless innings. Carlos Marmol and Ronald Belisario also tossed scoreless frames, and the Dodgers rallied to win, 7-6, capped by four runs in the ninth.
Dodgers praise mound work after soccer events
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers pitcher Chris Capuano said he wasn't aware of any difference in the Dodger Stadium mound Friday night, which is exactly what Eric Hansen was hoping for.
Hansen, the stadium's head groundskeeper, and his crew had the responsibility of tearing apart the mound after the last homestand so Dodger Stadium could host two international friendly soccer matches, then rebuild it in time for Friday night's series opener.
The jackhammers started demolition shortly after the previous home game July 31. Hansen said it took a two-man crew four days to rebuild, finishing Wednesday.
"It felt normal to me," Capuano said. "I wasn't aware of anything. I knew we had soccer games, but I didn't think about it at all, that's how good a job they did."
"That's the whole idea with an event like that," Hansen said. "You don't even want them to know it happened."
Hansen said he couldn't remember another time when the mound was removed and replaced during a season.