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McCourt sees bright future for Manny

McCourt sees bright future for Manny

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CHICAGO -- Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt sounded satisfied with outfielder Manny Ramirez's actions since he was disciplined for violating MLB's drug policy and suggested that Ramirez would be best to focus on the future rather than detail the events that led to his 50-game suspension.

"Personally, I would look forward, not backward," said McCourt, in town for the start of the Dodgers-Cubs four-game series. "That's just my philosophy. He has to deal with it his way. What more is there to say? Once you acknowledge the mistake, it's about moving forward, playing the game and winning a championship."

Ramirez, suspended on May 7, is eligible to return to the club July 3, barring rainouts. He met briefly with uniform personnel May 15 at the team hotel in Miami (at McCourt's urging) and has been working out at Dodger Stadium.

Ramirez has avoided media contact, and there are indications that will be the norm next week when the team returns home, as he is expected to continue his workouts at the club's training facility in Arizona. Ramirez is expected to play in as many as 10 Minor League games prior to his return, as allowed by MLB policy.

McCourt said he has not spoken to Ramirez since the first days after the suspension was announced.

"I'll be speaking to him soon,"McCourt said. "It's probably time to do that."

McCourt said Ramirez has to "admit what he did, apologize and mean it, make it up to the people he disappointed, and he can't make the mistake again."

McCourt would have no problem if Ramirez were voted into the All-Star Game this year. In the most recent voting, Ramirez ranked fourth among National League outfielders.

Responding to media analysis that suggest Ramirez was using steroids and not merely a banned substance prescribed for a medical condition, McCourt said:

"I don't have the expertise. I've never seen the test results. I'm not in a position myself to address that. What I've been told, my view is, he needs to do what he did in terms of acknowledging the mistake, apologize, attend to the disappointed different constituencies, including the fans through the media, and repair the damage and not make the same mistake again."

As far as addressing the fans through the media, McCourt said it would happen "at some point between now and the beginning of July," but dismissed the importance of a thorough explanation by Ramirez.

"He'll want to get a message to the fans and so forth, but there's not a lot of drama left in this one," McCourt said. "He's done all the things he should do, down to one last step -- speaking with you guys to get his message directly to the fans. I don't think there's a whole lot of drama left.

McCourt would not speculate on how fans will respond when Ramirez returns.

"Fans will have their own opinion and are entitled to their opinion, but at the end of the day, people make mistakes," McCourt said. "He's admitted that. The great thing about this country is, if you apologize in a genuine way and don't make the same mistake, one of the things that make this country great is [people get] a second chance. That's what I think will happen. I think he's embarrassed. It's a painful process. I hope he'll be stronger because of this."

McCourt said he believes the rest of his team already is.

"This has shown the Dodgers are bigger than any one individual," he said. "I'm really impressed by how well the team has played without Manny. The first week they were tested, but they really pulled together and realized how good a team they are without Manny and have gotten stronger.

"You see the support the fans and the community have for the team. We just came off a weekend with 165,000 fans. It's going good. That's not to say we won't be a better team when Manny comes back. We are. The fans embraced Manny in a special way. I expect they will in July. This has been a great test for our organization, and we passed with flying colors."

Entering Thursday's game vs. the Cubs, the Dodgers had won 12 of 19 since Ramirez left the club.

McCourt said he had no concern that the Ramirez who returns after the suspension will be the same player who was acquired last summer and helped lead the club into the postseason.

"I think Manny is a great player," McCourt said. "He'll bring energy, talent, charisma and maybe a little more wisdom and maturity because of what he's been through. I'm very optimistic. I have no doubt he'll contribute."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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