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Dodgers' skipper, GM reflect on Manny

Dodgers' skipper, GM reflect on Manny

SAN DIEGO -- After listening to media pepper Manny Ramirez with probing questions about the drug use that got him suspended (Ramirez deflected each one), Dodgers manager Joe Torre defended his outfielder's responses, if not the actions that created Friday's media circus at PETCO Park.

"He's very uncomfortable with this," Torre said before Friday's game, during which Ramirez returned to the lineup from a 50-game suspension for violating MLB's Drug Policy. "He didn't deny doing something wrong. He apologized. He doesn't want to talk about it. There are some things in my life I don't want to talk about, either. Baseball is a great place to try to bury yourself as far as concentration."

Manny Ramirez

Torre was asked about building criticism from Padres pitchers Jake Peavy and Chris Young that Ramirez's return is being celebrated in some quarters.

"Am I defending what he did? Certainly not," Torre said. "You can't control how people react to him. Should he be out of the game for life? He made a mistake. He's done his time. Now he's going to come back."

Torre said the media's questioning of Ramirez for not detailing his drug use wasn't unfair, but that having apologized to fans, Ramirez "hasn't denied wrongdoing" and now wants to "look ahead at what he needs to do."

General manager Ned Colletti, who has spent enough time with the Giants and Barry Bonds to know about media circuses, dismissed the possibility of the 150 extra media members in attendance distracting his first-place club.

"This is part of what they've grown up with [since Ramirez arrived last year]," Colletti said. "At some point, it will all go away. Our guys are resilient, focused and they understand the dynamics."

Colletti said he supported the MLB testing program that resulted in Manny's suspension.

"I'm not particularly glad we had to use it, but I'm glad we have it," Colletti said. "But the team's done all right. We didn't know what to expect completely. We knew we had an opportunity to see what people were made of and how they would cope in the situation presented.

"You take the best offensive player out of the lineup and someone who's genuinely liked in the clubhouse, and suddenly he's gone for 50 games and almost two months. And you know the cavalry is not going to show up and rescue you. You've got to do it as a group, and it speaks volumes what they've done, being one game better off [upping the Dodgers' lead from 6 1/2 games over the National League West to 7 1/2 during the suspension]. Now the question is, can they maintain it and continue to grow?"

Colletti said Ramirez will need some time to reach peak form.

"I don't expect him to come out playing like there was no interruption," Colletti said. "It's asking a lot of anybody to sit for two months and suddenly tear it up. Great hitters have a way, that's why they're great hitters. I'm sure he'll figure it out."

Ramirez emerged from a pregame hitters' meeting, stepping onto the field two hours before the game to a loud cheer and chants of "Manny, Manny" from the smattering of early arrivals in the stands.

Before the meeting, Ramirez made his usual rounds of the clubhouse, at one point sitting with teammates Rafael Furcal, Juan Castro and instructor Jose Vizcaino, and later talking to Guillermo Mota -- who returned from a similar suspension two years ago. For most of the pregame festivites, Ramirez was shadowed by a Dodgers security employee.

Ramirez said he was greeted by a large group of fans when he walked across the street from the club's hotel to the ballpark, stopping to sign autographs.

"They love me," Manny said.

Even so, shortly after the Dodgers began batting practice, an extra 20 uniformed members of the San Diego Police Department were sent on patrols throughout the ballpark.

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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