Dodgers will welcome back Manny
GM Colletti admits he was 'sick' and 'saddened' by news
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers management, initially "sick" and "saddened" with the stunning early Thursday morning news that Manny Ramirez had been suspended 50 games for taking performance-enhancing drugs, stressed that he will be welcomed back after his time is served.
"Who hasn't done something we wish we hadn't done?" asked Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti. "Had he dismissed it or acted like it was somebody else's fault, I'd have a hard time with it. He took ownership of what transpired. That speaks to the man. Admit your mistake in a public forum, that's not easy to do."
Nonetheless, the marketing fallout was immediate. Chief operating officer and president Dennis Mannion said "Mannywood," the left-field seats rechristened in honor of the left fielder, "will be discontinued for the time being until it's appropriate to bring it back." Instead, said Mannion, the area by the left-field foul pole will be rebranded in honor of the new Dodgertown 90090 ZIP code.
Replacing Ramirez in the lineup and clubhouse, however, will be a greater challenge. Manager Joe Torre, calling the developments "an obvious distraction," said veteran Juan Pierre will return to the starting lineup, playing left field and batting ninth. The club recalled rookie Xavier Paul to take Ramirez's place on the active roster.
"We'll change our offensive approach a little bit," Torre said. "I'll get a lot of questions about batting Pierre ninth. There will be a different style at this point in time. Juan is capable, beyond capable, of doing what he does very well. He's been a real pro taking a back seat to the whole thing and there's no hesitation thinking he's ready to go back to work."
Ramirez will be allowed to work out with the Major League club, as long as he's out of uniform when the stadium gates are opened. Torre, who spoke to Ramirez twice on Thursday, said Ramirez would be "welcome" to do that, but that Ramirez indicated he would take a couple days "for the smoke to clear and for him to get his thoughts clear on what's next. We'll talk again in the next day or two.
"The toughest thing for Manny is how he disappointed everybody. He loves it here and the fans got turned on by him. His personality matches well here. He was devastated. The only advice I gave him was not spend a lot of time thinking about something you can't change, but change the things you can."
Catcher Russell Martin, saying he "still loves the person," said the club can win without Ramirez.
"We're still focused. We still have games to play," Martin said. "Obviously, we'll miss him in the lineup. He's one of the best right-handed hitters of all-time. Any lineup with him is better. But I feel we've got a good team with or without him. We'll take this as a challenge, I think that's what we're going to do."
Torre and Colletti addressed the club before batting practice, then held a news conference. Torre said the mood was sad.
"As much of an impact he's had, he can't be missing without it affecting people," Torre said. "It won't keep us from feeling for him, but there's a lot of work to do. It will be a little tougher. I told them don't try to make up for him. If we play as well as we can play, more times than not we'll have a good result. Players have to suck it up and go after it."
"They were pretty good," Colletti said of his club's reaction. "I'm confident in who they are. Look, this isn't golf or tennis. It's not a one-person sport. It's a team. There isn't one player that's why we win. We have depth at a lot of positions and a little bit of a lead [6 1/2 games]. He'll be back a month before he got here a year ago. We're a group that battles. I don't see us as a soft group. This is another opportunity for somebody to step up. That's the nature of sport."
Both said the club fully supports MLB's drug-testing policy, but praised Ramirez for acknowledging his mistake.
Torre said the suspension "doesn't change my view of his accomplishments as a player." Colletti said he felt "sick" and "saddened" when he heard the news from Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt. He said he has not spoken to Ramirez and would need more information from the player about the circumstances that led to his suspension when asked if he would trust his slugging star again.
"I don't know the whole story," Colletti said.
He added that he doesn't regret re-signing Ramirez to a $25 million contract this year, with a $20 million player option for 2010, because "nothing led us to believe we'd be having this conversation today."
Colletti said the club had not discussed what to do with the roughly $7.7 million in salary it won't be paying Ramirez during the suspension, but indicated he was not eager to make any quick deals to add a bat.
"He'll be gone for 50 games," Colletti said.
Colletti and Torre said they were informed of the suspension in a phone call from McCourt around 12:30 a.m. after they had both returned to their homes Wednesday night from the Dodgers' 10-3 win over Washington, which set a modern-day record of 13 consecutive home wins to start a season.
"After the celebration of last night, it was like somebody punched a hole in the balloon," Torre said. "It was pretty tough for Manny, too. He's the one who did the wrong thing. Nobody tried to cover that up."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.