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Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Manny asks for more playing time

Associated Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Manny Ramirez had one lament after leaving the Los Angeles Dodgers' final exhibition game in Arizona on Wednesday.

"No fly balls," he said.

Ramirez
Ramirez

Delayed by a late contract signing and a subsequent hamstring injury, Ramirez thinks he is running behind schedule this spring, so much so that he lobbied for extended playing time in the Dodgers' four remaining exhibition games before their regular-season opener April 6 at San Diego.

"It's up to Joe [Torre], but I need the at-bats and I need to get in the outfield," Ramirez said. "I haven't played a lot because of my hamstring. Everybody is three weeks ahead of me and I'm trying to catch up, you know?

"It's such a long season, and you can go day by day to catch up."

Ramirez signed a two-year, $45 million contract with the Dodgers on March 4, two weeks after position players reported to spring training.

He aggravated his left hamstring during his first game in the outfield March 15 after being scratched the day before because of hamstring tightness.

Ramirez did not play the outfield again until March 25, though he was used as a designated hitter in two games before that.

"It's good. It feels great," Ramirez said of his hamstring.

Ramirez has played 10 games, half in the field, and has 10 hits in 21 spring training at-bats. He has one home run, six walks and five strikeouts.

Despite the limited work, Torre, the Dodgers' manager, thinks Ramirez is prepared for the start of the season.

"He likes to work more probably than he needs to. You hate to say that about a guy, but he certainly doesn't slack off," Torre said. "He'll get [fly balls] this weekend."

Los Angeles plays its next three exhibition games at Dodger Stadium, on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Angels and then Friday and Saturday against Milwaukee.

"I don't think taking fly balls in Arizona would have done him much good, anyway -- the high sky," Torre said. "Once you get the second deck on the field, you have a better opportunity to be more realistic. He'll get plenty of work this weekend, whatever he needs. I think physically he can handle it. At least we are home, which is big for us."

Ramirez has been reporting to the Dodgers' spring training complex every day at 7 a.m. for agility work and to take fly balls and, he said, "To get my legs back on track."

He said he needs to see fly balls in game situations, however, "To get a read on the balls during games. It's not the same doing it in early drills. The speed of the game is different."

The 36-year-old Ramirez struck out on three pitches in the first inning Wednesday against top San Francisco prospect Madison Bumgarner, the 10th player taken in the 2007 draft. Bumgarner, 19, is expected to start the season at Class-A San Jose after going 15-3 with a 1.46 ERA at Class-A Augusta in 2008.

"He's great. He's nasty," said Ramirez, who fouled off two fastballs before swinging over a curve. "Good fastball. Good curve. Sneaky."

Told he will be facing Bumgarner for the next five years, Ramirez chuckled.

"You crazy," he said. "I'm not going to play that long."