Manny Ramirez has looked impressive in his morning workouts at Dodger Stadium, according to two people who have been allowed past security guards to watch.
"He looks incredible. The best I've ever seen him," said one. Neither witness wanted to be identified by name because the Dodgers have insisted on keeping details of Ramirez's workouts private.
Ramirez, who has been practicing in shorts, a T-shirt and red bandanna, was suspended last month for violating baseball's drug policy. He is not eligible to return to the Dodgers until July 3 at the earliest, though he can work out with the team provided he leaves the stadium when the public gates open.
Ramirez has been working out alone and has met with teammates only once -- for less than 10 minutes -- when the Dodgers were in Miami. And while team officials paint Ramirez as contrite and filled with angst over his suspension, those who have seen him practice saw something different.
"He's in good spirits," said one. "He seems very happy, laughing and joking."
Ramirez's workouts reportedly last about 90 minutes each morning and consist mainly of hitting against live pitching, agility drills and some weight lifting.
Oh, what a relief
Guillermo Mota arguably has been the Dodgers' most dependable reliever the last two weeks. He credits coaches Ken Howell and Rick Honeycutt, who corrected a minor mechanical flaw, for helping him rebound from a tough spell in mid-May when he gave up nine runs in 4 2/3 innings.
The coaches watched video of the pitcher and noticed he had changed the way he raised his lead leg. Correcting that flaw allowed him to keep his arm higher through his delivery.
"I've had good results working with that," Mota explained in Spanish. "That's been the key to throwing the ball better, locating the ball better and getting ahead in the count."
Beginning with two hitless innings against the Angels, Mota hasn't given up a run in his last five appearances, spanning 5 2/3 innings. During that time, everyone else in the Dodgers bullpen has yielded at least one run.
"I knew I was a better pitcher than the way I was throwing," said Mota, who has trimmed nearly 2.5 runs from his earned-run average since May 17. "But there's four months left. It's not how you start, it's how you finish."
Left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who gave up his regular spot in the rotation to allow Hiroki Kuroda to return Monday, will make his next start Thursday, giving him seven days between outings.
Manager Joe Torre said the Dodgers will try to find Kershaw additional rest at other times this season. The 21-year-old threw a career-high 169 innings last season.
Kuroda, who hadn't pitched since opening day because of a side strain, said there were no ill effects from Monday's five-inning outing. He is scheduled to start Saturday.
Outfielder Xavier Paul, on the disabled list since May 22 because of a skin infection, hopes to resume baseball activities by hitting off a tee today.
Paul, who played in 11 games, scraped his left knee sliding into second in Philadelphia, then reopened the cut making a diving catch in Miami. When the knee became swollen and the infection began creeping up his leg, Paul spent four days in the hospital.
"Probably the worst pain I've ever felt," he said.