Manny's Dodgers teammates amused by misadventure

LOS ANGELES -- From the day the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for Manny Ramirez, manager Joe Torre said his colorful left fielder wouldn't be removed for a defensive replacement in the late innings.

But when the ninth inning arrived at Chavez Ravine on Monday night and closer Jonathan Broxton had finished his warmup pitches, only eight Dodgers were on the field to defend an 8-4 lead against the Philadelphia Phillies.

No Manny.

"I didn't know anything about it until Juan Pierre said, 'He took all his bats and went on in,'" Torre said Tuesday during batting practice. "So I said, 'Well, we'd better get him out here.' Manny was still getting on me about it today."

Here's what happened: Ramirez was forced out at the plate in the eighth, and Torre held his fist out from a distance as a way of congratulating the enigmatic slugger for his single that helped the Dodgers build an insurance run. But Ramirez thought Torre's gesture meant he was being taken out of the game. So he headed up the tunnel to the clubhouse.

"I was sitting there when Manny was forced at the plate, and then I realized that I didn't shake Manny's hand for getting the hit. So he went by me and I put my fist out," Torre said. "He was probably 8 feet away, and he put his fist out and was starting to come back. I said, 'No, don't worry about it,'" and he thought I meant, go inside and we'll pick you up in the ninth."

Just like Paul Newman and Strother Martin in the 1967 chain-gang epic, "Cool Hand Luke," Ramirez and Torre had a failure to communicate.

"I just went to the bathroom," Ramirez said with a chuckle after the Dodgers' 8-6 victory. "All the guys said, 'Hey, we play nine in here.'"

Plate umpire Jeff Nelson held up the proceedings until Ramirez reappeared and jogged swiftly out to his position -- dreadlocks flying and a sheepish half-smile on his face while he finished buttoning up his uniform.

"The umpires were fine about it," Torre said Wednesday. "I mean, we've had to wait for guys if they've had a piece of equipment break, or snap a jock or something and had to go change. It was just one of those things. It certainly wasn't intentional. We weren't trying to delay the game in any way -- not that we won't get a letter because we delayed the game."

Ramirez politely declined to rehash the sequence Tuesday. He walked away and sat down at the empty locker next to Russell Martin and told him: "Everything happens to me." Then he continued locker-hopping and schmoozing with teammates.

The Dodgers were well aware of the kind of improvisational hijinx they could expect from Ramirez when they acquired the 12-time All-Star from the Boston Red Sox at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Despite all his well-documented antics over the last 16 years, there are very few players who can command as much respect from pitchers as the 2004 World Series MVP.

"I've seen him for a long time, and I knew when he came over here that his mind was going to be in the right place and he was going to play like I know he can," said pitcher Derek Lowe, who was teammates with Ramirez in Boston from 2001-04.

In 10 games with his new team, Ramirez was batting .475 (19-for-40) with four home runs and 13 RBIs. His .850 slugging percentage was the highest by a Los Angeles Dodgers player in his first 10 games with the club, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"That's all he does -- he delivers," Lowe said. "This is what you get on a nightly basis. In every single game, he's done something positive to help us win."

Tuesday was the first day Dodger Stadium concession stands were selling blue "Mannywood" T-shirts, which had his No. 99 on it next to a silhouette of his head, complete with dreadlocks and reflecting sunglasses -- no facial features. The Dodger caps with the facsimile dreadlocks are schedule to arrive on Thursday.

"It's been a long time since this city, especially the Dodgers -- have seen a bona fide, everyday superstar," Lowe said. "Now they're seeing it, and how he can change a game."

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel spent seven seasons with Ramirez in Cleveland, the first six as hitting coach. Ramirez's final season with the Indians was Manuel's first as their manager. Ramirez batted .351 with 38 homers and 122 RBIs during that 2000 campaign, and Manuel did his best to persuade him to stay before he signed a $160 million, eight-year deal with the Red Sox.

"He's a lot of fun, but you've got to really get to know him," Manuel said. "I mean, when they say, 'Manny's being Manny,' I mean, he's a much nicer person than people would think.

"There was a lot of stuff that happened in Cleveland. There were stories about him. ... You know what? If I told all the stories about him and the funny things that happened, you and I might be sitting here and laughing this time tomorrow. That's who he is. When I used to talk hitting with him, I'd say, 'You've got to be tension-free.' And actually, Manny is tension-free in life. That's something that comes natural for him."