PHOENIX — Manny Ramirez belted his first home run of the spring Tuesday in the Dodgers' first night game at Camelback Ranch, ripping a first-inning pitch from Seattle Mariners starter Ryan Rowland-Smith through the desert sky and far above the bullpen beyond the left-field fence.
But Ramirez was dismissive of the blast -- "Anybody can go deep in March," he said, stealing a line Casey Blake shouted to him in the Dodgers' clubhouse -- and claimed that his most important at-bat of the evening was a fifth-inning fly ball he hit to left-center that was caught by center fielder Endy Chavez. He motored around first base and made a hard turn around second but said that the left hamstring that had sidelined him for a week felt fine.
"I'm more concerned about my leg," Ramirez said. "If I'm healthy, I'll be fine. Everything will take care of itself."
Ramirez, who was hit by a pitch in the third inning of the Dodgers' 8-6 loss, said the way he felt convinced him he was ready for his "big day" -- a start in left field in a road game today against Milwaukee.
"I'm going to test it, try it out, go harder in the outfield," Ramirez said.
The All-Star outfielder seemed to gain some confidence from a workout he had soon after he exited the game. In near-darkness he ran in the outfield of a practice field under the watch of strength and conditioning coach Brendon Huttmann.
But the idea of sending Ramirez back to where he strained his hamstring 10 days ago was clearly a source of anxiety for Manager Joe Torre.
"We will certainly encourage him to measure what he does," Torre said. "Let the ball go to the wall if you have to."
"I'm cutting that [ball] off," he said. "Sorry, you know, you just react. When you're there, it's hard to pace yourself."
Ramirez made it clear he wants to play more to regain his timing at the plate.
Billingsley on the mend
Chad Billingsley, whose start Monday was cut short by a mild groin strain, threw on flat ground without any problems.
"It's no worse than yesterday so that's good," Billingsley said. "It's nothing serious, as far as I know."
Billingsley is tentatively scheduled to throw a bullpen session Thursday and make his next start Sunday.
He took about a week to recover from a similar problem early in camp last year.
Jonathan Broxton said he felt that his three weeks pitching for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic would help his transition to becoming the Dodgers' permanent closer.
"It's like a playoff game," Broxton said of the WBC atmosphere. "Everything was high intensity. Every pitch meant something. I had a lot of adrenaline."
Broxton said he spent time asking former Seattle Mariners closer and current New York Mets setup man J.J. Putz about his split-finger fastball, a pitch Broxton wants to use more frequently this season.
Broxton pitched four innings over four games in the WBC and posted a 2.25 earned-run average. He was far less successful in his return to the Dodgers on Tuesday night, as he blew a 6-4 lead in the ninth inning by giving up four runs and four hits while recording only two outs.
Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw took a line drive off his hip in the first inning but remained in the game and had six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He held the Mariners to two runs and three hits. . . . Mark Loretta will probably miss four to five days with a groin strain. . . . Blake DeWitt sat out because of a bruised quadriceps but could return to game action today. . . . Jason Repko left the game in the seventh inning because of a tight left hamstring. . . . Jason Schmidt gave up two runs and six hits in three innings of a Class-A game against the Brewers but said he felt "more optimistic" about his chances of returning to a big league mound. "I felt free and easy." he said.