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DODGERS

Manny Ramirez will make his spring debut Thursday

The outfielder will either start in left field or be the designated hitter when the Dodgers play Korea's World Baseball Classic team in an exhibition.

March 12, 2009|Jim Peltz

PHOENIX — When Dodgers Manager Joe Torre showed up early one morning this week at the team's spring-training camp, he found a player already working out.

"I got to the ballpark at 10 [minutes] to six," Torre said, "and by the time I got into the weight room . . . he was already in there, sweating, in his full uniform."

The player: Manny Ramirez. With his new two-year, $45-million contract now signed, Ramirez has been getting in shape for his Cactus League debut today.

Ramirez will start either in left field or as the Dodgers' designated hitter in an exhibition at Camelback Ranch with South Korea's entrant in the World Baseball Classic.

"Right now, I'm thinking in terms of [Ramirez] DH-ing," Torre said after the Dodgers' 6-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday. (The Dodgers were off Wednesday.)

"I'll see what he feels up to," Torre said. "He's been working hard. But I have a sense that if we DH him, he may be able to stay in the game longer. Pretty much whatever he wants to do, that's fine with me."

Ramirez said "it's up to Joe" where, or how long, he plays today.

"I'm preparing myself every day," Ramirez said. "I'm behind everybody, so I got to come in early and do a lot of work."

At the same time, he said, "we still have, like, 26 games [left in spring training]. We have plenty of time."

Before Tuesday's game, about 150 spectators watched Ramirez take batting practice at an auxiliary field. Few of his hits cleared the outfield fence -- the field's dimensions match those of Dodger Stadium -- as Ramirez focused mostly on his timing and making solid contact.

But Ramirez, who will be 37 in May, said his priority was getting his legs strong again. "We're running the bases, doing a lot of exercises for agility," he said. "That's why I come in early."

Kemp's cause

Ramirez is scheduled to appear Saturday at a fundraiser, co-hosted by Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp and former Oakland A's pitcher Dave Stewart, to benefit families affected by autism.

Kemp's younger brother, Carlton, has autism and Matt Kemp has become a spokesman for Talk About Curing Autism (TACA), a Costa Mesa-based support organization.

The benefit at the Penske Racing Museum in Scottsdale also is scheduled to include Dodgers players Chad Billingsley, James Loney, Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf, along with Torii Hunter of the Angels, new Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson and Indy car racer Danica Patrick.

Short hops

Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, a candidate to be the NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick, played for Highland Park High in Dallas. His freshman-year center there: Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. "He should be" the top pick, Kershaw said of Stafford. "He's always been good." . . . Catcher Russell Martin is expected to rejoin the Dodgers today now that Canada has been eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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