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DODGERS

Manny Ramirez walks and grounds out in second game

On a rainy day at Isotopes Park, fans make it clear they have come to see the Dodgers outfielder swing the bat, not take four balls.

June 25, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

ALBUQUERQUE — Manny Ramirez said he had to play.

"I have to get used to the speed of games," he said. "I didn't play for a long time."

With his suspension for violating baseball's drug policy down to seven games, Ramirez took a gamble of sorts Wednesday, playing four innings of a triple-A contest on the rain-soaked field at Isotopes Park.

And with his July 3 return date to the Dodgers' lineup fast approaching, Ramirez added a date to his weeklong warmup in the minor leagues, a game with Class-A Inland Empire at Lake Elsinore on Saturday. The game will be Ramirez's first in Southern California since he was hit with a 50-game ban last month.

"The results aren't important," said Dodgers coach Manny Mota, who accompanied Ramirez to Albuquerque. "What's important is that he runs in the outfield. What's important is that he gets his body used to playing."

Ramirez will play his last game for the Dodgers' triple-A affiliate in New Mexico today and return to Los Angeles on Friday. Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said Ramirez would play Saturday at Lake Elsinore and from Sunday through Tuesday at Inland Empire's home in San Bernardino.

The showers that hit Isotopes Park cut Ramirez's appearance from a scheduled five innings to four, but the All-Star outfielder had more action than he did the previous day in his first game in New Mexico.

Batting leadoff and starting in left field, Ramirez drew a walk in the first inning and grounded out to short in the third. He caught a ball at the warning track and fielded another that bounced off the outfield wall.

Ramirez left the game in the middle of the fourth inning because of the field conditions, according to team spokesman Josh Rawitch.

Assistant General Manager Kim Ng said that as far as she knew, Ramirez wasn't hurt and would play today.

Ng said she didn't consider pulling Ramirez from Wednesday's game.

"You have to trust his judgment," she said. "We can't protect him from everything."

The standing-room-only crowd of 13,076 fans wasn't particularly appreciative.

After Ramirez went 0 for 2 on Tuesday night, the crowd grew restless as it watched him take seven of the eight pitches he saw.

The fans booed Nashville pitcher Tim Dillard when he fell behind 2-0 on Ramirez in the first inning. Balls three and four drew similar reactions.

But Ramirez got a chance to run, advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by Chin-lung Hu and rounding third when Jamie Hoffmann flew out to center to end the inning.

Ramirez took the first three pitches in the third inning and hit a 1-and-2 pitch to short.

Ramirez made another quick exit from the ballpark, refusing to sign any autographs as he quickly ducked into a car parked in front of the back exit of the Isotopes' clubhouse.

Protecting Manny

is 'low key'

Part of the crew sent by the Dodgers to accompany Ramirez to Albuquerque was Ray Maytorena, the club's head of security.

A retired secret service officer, Maytorena was part of security teams that protected Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Of the task of ensuring Ramirez's safety, Maytorena said, "It's rather low-key, especially compared to when you go to a G8 Summit."

Maytorena laughed when told that he went from flying on Air Force One to flying on Southwest Airlines, which took Ramirez from Los Angeles to New Mexico on Monday.

Maytorena said he feared Ramirez could be mobbed at Los Angeles International Airport, but that they encountered no problems.

"I've had more challenging assignments," Maytorena said, laughing.

Among them was helping Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, move into her dormitory at Stanford in the fall of 1997.

The Isotopes more than doubled their security presence for this series.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, a group of three security guards, two uniformed police officers and two ushers lined the left-field line between innings to ensure that fans wouldn't run on the field to approach Ramirez.

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Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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