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Manny Ramirez plays left field without further damage

DODGERS

He says his hamstring feels pretty good after playing three innings.

March 26, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

PHOENIX — Manager Joe Torre said he knew it would be useless to tell Manny Ramirez to take it easy.

He was right.

When Bill Hall drove a ball into the left-field corner in the second inning of the Milwaukee Brewers' 12-8 victory over the Dodgers on Wednesday, Ramirez dashed to intercept it. Ramirez, playing the outfield for the first time in 10 days, prevented the ball from reaching the wall.

The left hamstring that sidelined him for a week, Ramirez later said, was fine.

"It feels better running, especially when I cut off that ball," Ramirez said. "I thought I was going to mess it up again, but it was pretty good. Every time you hurt your hamstring, you got that on the back of your mind. But I wanted to test it."

Ramirez, who was one for two with a walk, was replaced by Xavier Paul in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Torre admitted he was hesitant about starting Ramirez in the outfield.

"I guess I do have trepidation, but you have to do this at some point," Torre said.

While Ramirez pushed Torre to let him take the field and get more at-bats, he said he wasn't concerned of how his late arrival to camp would affect him in the regular season.

Asked what kind of shape he'd be in on opening day, Ramirez replied, "Maybe like 50%, but who cares? It's a long season and that's the way I look at it."

Taking hits

Without throwing a single pitch, James McDonald might have strengthened his hold as the front-runner to be the Dodgers' fifth starter, as two of his main competitors for the job were roughed up by the Brewers.

Eric Stults was charged with four runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings. Stults (12.96 earned-run average) departed from the game with the bases loaded and his replacement, Claudio Vargas, gave up a sacrifice fly to Corey Hart and a three-run home run to Mike Cameron.

Vargas (8.22 ERA), who until recently was the favorite to land the final spot in the rotation, was pounded for three more runs in the fourth inning. Torre said he used Vargas in relief because he was also considering him to as a long reliever.

McDonald (5.84 ERA), who threw three scoreless innings in his last start, will pitch today when the Dodgers play the Colorado Rockies in Tucson. Also pitching will be Eric Milton (4.91 ERA), another rotation candidate.

This has been an emotionally difficult spring for Stults, whose mother died in the weeks leading up to the start of camp.

"I'm not going to lie," Stults said. "Some days, it's hard. There are some days I miss my mom. It's one of those things I have to get over."

Short hops

Chad Billingsley continues to feel some tightness in his groin and might not throw his scheduled bullpen session today. . . . Matt Kemp returned to camp with a new set of contact lenses with the right prescription. . . . Delwyn Young, who hasn't played since Friday because of an irritation in his surgically repaired throwing elbow, underwent an MRI exam. Results were negative. This spring could be Young's last with the Dodgers. Torre has said there probably would be only four outfielders on the roster -- Ramirez, Kemp, Andre Ethier and Juan Pierre -- and Young is out of options, meaning he would have to clear waivers to be sent to the minors.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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