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Manny in the mix is a good match

August 11, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO -- Russell Martin said he was unsure what Manny Ramirez would be like or how he would influence the Dodgers' clubhouse. Never had Martin played with someone of Ramirez's stature.

"I didn't know what to expect," Martin said.

Manny is being Manny, all right, but the Manny Ramirez whom Martin knows isn't the Manny Ramirez he'd heard about on SportsCenter.

Ramirez hasn't made any cellphone calls from inside a left field wall or lost a $15,000 diamond earring diving into a base, but he has been, well, different.

In a way his teammates say they like.

"He's one of the easiest guys I've ever known to get along with," said Derek Lowe, who was also Ramirez's teammate in Boston. "He's a superstar player who acts like he's 12."

Andruw Jones has known that side of Ramirez for some time. They met in 1998 when they visited Japan as part of an all-star team and often got together for drinks whenever their paths crossed over the next decade. Jones, who has a $36-million contract and a .161 average, has taken refuge in Ramirez's shadow, spending plenty of time with him in the clubhouse and batting cages.

"We're just hanging out and talking trash," said Jones, who at 31 is five years younger than Ramirez. "That's all we do."

He isn't playful only with Jones. He hugs his teammates upon entering the clubhouse, even if they're getting dressed. He told Times columnist T.J. Simers to sit on his lap and frequently puts his arms around reporters when walking by them.

His signs of affection aren't always conventional.

When Mark Sweeney collected a pinch-hit single Saturday night and was immediately replaced by a pinch-runner, he was met in the dugout with extended hands for him to slap. Instead of offering him a high-five, Ramirez walked up to him, put his hands on Sweeney's head, removed his helmet and put it away for him.

Sunday morning, Ramirez was in the batting cages, standing next to a seated Jones, his right hand palming and caressing Jones' shaven head. Jones sat smiling.

"He likes to interact with the entire world, he has the door open to everyone," shortstop Angel Berroa said. "Everybody around him is always laughing. Time goes by quickly when you're around him."

The addition of Ramirez has been particularly welcomed by Berroa and Pablo Ozuna, a couple of Dominican middle infielders who previously kept a low profile in the clubhouse. They are now part of a Spanish-speaking foursome that includes Ramirez and Jones.

"It's always nice when someone from your country joins you. You feel freer," Berroa said. "You can speak more Spanish, be a little more social."

Ramirez had a reputation of doing as he pleased in Boston, but, perhaps in an effort to rehabilitate his image before he files for free agency this winter, he said he would follow team rules.

He said he would trim his dreadlocks to shoulder length this week and has, for the most part, played his music softly, if at all, at his locker in accordance with Manager Joe Torre's no-music policy. There was an exception last week in St. Louis, when Ramirez was visiting Jones on the other side of the clubhouse and some of the Dodgers' younger players turned up the volume of the reggaeton playing in Ramirez's portable stereo.

"Oh, yeah, we're partying today!" Ramirez said when the music reached his ears.

That prompted a couple of young Dodgers to replace Ramirez's iPods with their own. For a day, there was music.

The careless side of Ramirez, well known in Boston, has also made a couple of appearances, most recently on Sunday when he hit a ball past diving San Francisco shortstop Ivan Ochoa in the seventh inning with runners on the corners. On his way to first, Ramirez turned to the Dodgers' dugout and started clapping, only to realize the ball had reached the outfield wall and he had to run to second base.

What Ramirez doesn't appear to be in the mood to laugh or talk about is his tenure in Boston.

He reported to the Dodgers wearing a dark blue shirt that read "Enough is enough," and when he spotted a reporter from Boston in St. Louis, Ramirez walked by him and said, "I don't want to talk about Boston."

Another former Boston player in the clubhouse, Nomar Garciaparra, laughingly told Ramirez, "See what you bring?"

Ramirez laughed.

"I'm on vacation," he said.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Manny being Manny

Some notable incidents involving Manny Ramirez:

* Dec. 10, 2001: In his first season with Boston, Ramirez claims to be uncomfortable, prompting the new ownership group to create a separate interview room.

* May 18, 2002: Loses diamond earring sliding into third base while on a rehabilitation assignment with the Pawtucket Red Sox. After the game, 13 teammates and the grounds crew comb the area and find the stud, but not the $15,000 diamond.

* Sept. 7, 2002: Requests the song "Good Times (I Get High)" by Styles P for his plate appearances. The song's unedited lyrics about marijuana use are played over the Fenway Park public address system.

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