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06/24/09 12:53 AM ET

Manny makes rehab start at Triple-A

Dodgers slugger goes 0-for-2 on Tuesday night

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Batting leadoff on Tuesday, Dodgers star Manny Ramirez began his trip back from a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs by going 0-for-2 at the plate for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes.

In his first at-bat of the Minor League assignment, Ramirez worked the count to 2-2 before swinging at a third strike, tipping a 91-mph fastball from Nashville Sounds starter Manny Parra into the catcher's glove. He looked at a couple of called strikes during the at-bat.

Ramirez grounded out to shortstop on a 1-0 count on his second and final plate appearance, but the Isotopes came away with a 1-0 victory.

Ramirez refused to speak with reporters after the game but he did talk briefly beforehand to The Associated Press, although he dodged the issue of steroid use.

"I don't want to talk about that," Ramirez told the AP. "I'm not talking about it anymore. I already said what I'm going to say. I'm here to do my rehab, you know ... get a couple at-bats and get back to the big league team."

Ramirez said his goals for his time in the Minor Leagues were pretty basic: "Get a feel for my legs, how my legs are going to respond."

It will take some time to overcome the long absence from the game, he said.

"I haven't played like in 50 days, but I'm going to catch up slowly, day by day," Ramirez said.

He was greeted with loud cheers by a record crowd of 15,321 at Isotopes Stadium, where not a single ball was hit his way during his four innings in left field.

Ramirez was suspended May 7 in connection with a drug that has been used to mask steroids. He was hitting .348 with six homers and 20 RBIs in 27 games before the suspension.

Ramirez is scheduled to play five innings Wednesday and he is expected to go seven innings Thursday. He's then scheduled to play for Class A Inland Empire at Lake Elsinore on Saturday. The assignment could last as long as four games. He's eligible to return to the Major Leagues on July 3, barring any Dodgers rainouts.

Ramirez certainly didn't look his best, said former Major Leaguer Dee Brown, who replaced Ramirez in left field and drove in the game's only run.

"He looked rusty," Brown said. "But that's to be expected. He hasn't played in a long time. On his second at-bat, he looked better, kept his arms inside the ball and hit a ground ball."

Albuquerque batting coach John Moses agreed with that assessment.

"Coming in to today, we were just expecting him to try and get his timing down," he said. "I felt like he did that on his second at-bat. In his first at-bat, he looked a little slow, but that's to be expected when a guy is throwing 93-94. Your timing isn't going to be there. I'm just looking for him to be feeling good by the time he leaves here."

Isotopes manager Tim Wallach said he got a good report from Ramirez after he came out of the game.

"I thought he looked good," he said. "He said he saw the ball well and he felt good. Those are the two most important things."

Before the suspension, Ramirez had been bothered by hamstring problems, but there was no evidence of that as he ran out the infield grounder.

"He ran down to first and it looked like he ran fine," Wallach said. "As long as he's comfortable. We want to make sure he's comfortable."

It was Ramirez who asked to bat leadoff, Wallach said, so he could get an extra at-bat.

"He'll probably bat leadoff again," Wallach said. "But if he wants to bat third, we'll let him to do that."

Glen Rosales is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.