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DODGERS FYI

Manny Ramirez promotion doesn't sit well with sponsor

Healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente dropped its sponsorship of Wednesday's Ramirez bobblehead giveaway after his suspension for violating drug polity.

July 22, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

The Dodgers' series finale against the Cincinnati Reds tonight has been sold out for three days.

The likely reason: fans in attendance will receive a free Manny Ramirez bobblehead.

But not everyone wanted to be a part of the promotion.

The original sponsor was Kaiser Permanente, which signed a deal to become the Dodgers' "official health insurance partner" this spring. Kaiser Permanente remains a partner of the Dodgers, but dropped its sponsorship of this particular giveaway soon after Ramirez was issued a 50-game ban.

"As a health-care organization, we thought it was necessary to pull out of our sponsorship of the promotion when he was suspended for violating baseball's drug policy," Kaiser Permanente spokesman Jim Anderson said.

In retrospect, sponsoring the promotion might have worked for Kaiser Permanente, as Ramirez was hit by a pitch Tuesday night and taken to a nearby hospital for precautionary X-rays.

Asked whether Kaiser Permanente's partnership with the Dodgers signaled the health insurance giant's approval of baseball's efforts to rid the game performance-enhancing drugs, Anderson said, "I wouldn't read into that. We took a single step for a single reason."

Replacing Kaiser Permanente as the sponsor of the Ramirez bobblehead night will be the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino.

Steve Lengel, executive director of operations for San Manuel, wouldn't say whether the public's apparent indifference regarding Ramirez's transgression factored in the decision by the casino near San Bernardino to sponsor the giveaway.

"Our sponsorship is with the Dodgers," Lengel said. "If we have an opportunity to sponsor a sellout crowd, I would be happy if they would consider us."

Mientkiewicz on mend

It appears that sidelined utilityman Doug Mientkiewicz will be back on the active roster far sooner than expected. Mientkiewicz, who separated his right shoulder in April and was expected to be out until September, said he was optimistic that he could be activated in the next two weeks.

"I knew when they told me September or October, it wasn't a good enough answer," Mientkiewicz said.

Mientkiewicz will travel today to the Dodgers' spring training complex in Arizona, where he will work out through Sunday. He is scheduled to play four games for triple-A Albuquerque as part of minor league rehabilitation assignment July 28-31.

Mientkiewicz, 35, said that his goal is to be activated for the Dodgers' game Aug. 4 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Manager Joe Torre said there would be a place on the team for Mientkiewicz whenever he's ready to play again.

"He gives us a little more flexibility," Torre said.

Short hops

A day after pitching in his first major league game in two years, Jason Schmidt didn't report any problems with his shoulder. Torre said that Schmidt would probably start again Sunday against Florida. The Dodgers have a day off Thursday but Torre said he probably wouldn't skip anyone in the rotation as a result. . . . Sidelined relievers Ronald Belisario and Cory Wade threw bullpen sessions. They are expected to start rehabilitation assignments in the minor leagues next week. . . . USC football Coach Pete Carroll and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attended Tuesday night's game at Dodger Stadium. Villaraigosa was booed when introduced in a pregame ceremony.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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