Manny Ramirez might not be eligible to return to the field from his 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy until July 3, but the Dodgers want him back sooner than that.
In their clubhouse, at least.
On the day the Dodgers fell to 0-2 without Ramirez as the result of a 3-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, Ramirez's agent had conversations with owner Frank McCourt and General Manager Ned Colletti, who were trying to persuade the disgraced All-Star outfielder to address his teammates, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation who weren't authorized to speak on the matter.
"Good luck," one Dodgers player said.
Ramirez was believed to still be in Los Angeles on Friday night, according to sources in the Dodgers organization and Ramirez's camp.
Sources said that agent Scott Boras believes Ramirez would benefit from speaking to his teammates but added that the player might not be emotionally prepared to be reunited with them.
Manager Joe Torre said he last spoke to Ramirez on Thursday, the day he was suspended for testing positive for human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG, a female fertility drug that is taken by steroid users to restore testosterone production to normal levels.
Of Ramirez's state of mind, Torre said, "Right now, it's probably scrambled eggs."
Ramirez is said to be distraught enough that the subjects of where he would stay in shape or when he would address the media have not been seriously discussed.
For the duration of his suspension, Ramirez can work out with the Dodgers but must be out of uniform by the time the stadium gates open.
Torre said the Dodgers would welcome Ramirez back.
"Because of the concern players have for him, I think they'd like to see him," Torre said.
But Torre, who dealt with numerous controversies in his 12 seasons as manager of the New York Yankees, acknowledged that traveling for road games with the team could present problems for the 36-year-old.
"If it's something new in every town, it could be a circus," Torre said.
"Circus" was the word first baseman James Loney used to describe Dodger Stadium on Thursday, when more than 100 members of the media were present for Torre and Colletti's news conference.
"The only thing we're missing is a tent," Loney said.
Can that be a distraction?
"Every time we lose games, someone's going to put a mic in [players'] faces and say it was because of Manny," third base coach Larry Bowa said.
That's what happened Thursday night, when the Dodgers dropped an 11-9 decision to the Washington Nationals.
"It had nothing to do with Manny," Bowa said. "We had a 6-0 lead against a team that's in last place in the East and we didn't put them away."
Third baseman Casey Blake admitted that constantly being questioned about Ramirez could grow tiring.
"Obviously, I'd rather not answer these questions," he said. "But it's there. It's real."
Torre addressed the issue in a team meeting earlier Thursday. "I told them it's going to be a distraction they're going to have to deal with," he said. "Eventually, it'll fade away."
He said the field could serve as a sanctuary for the team.
"The thing about the game is that it gives you a place to hide out," Torre said. "You don't have to answer questions when you're out there."
But, he added, "I'll try to keep a watch over the players and see if they're torn over where their concentration is," he said.
Colletti was an assistant general manager with the Giants when their star outfielder, Barry Bonds, became a central figure in the BALCO scandal.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported in March 2004 that federal investigators were told Bonds had received performance-enhancing drugs from BALCO, a nutritional supplement lab in Northern California. The Giants' clubhouse was never the same.
But, Colletti said, "I think players learn how to turn down the noise."
Colletti pointed to how the Giants were 91-71 in 2004 and weren't eliminated from playoff contention until the penultimate day of the season.
The experience of playing in Los Angeles, Colletti said, should be an added plus in helping the Dodgers tune out the crush of reporters who are expected to greet them at many games.
"Our young players have played in Los Angeles for three seasons, some a touch more," he said. "This is a major market with high expectations. There's no place louder." Colletti said that by "loud," he meant "potentially distracting."