Mannywood madness set to engulf LA
Suspension in past, slugger returning to hometown hailing
Manny Ramirez will return to Mannywood on Thursday night as his comeback from a 50-game suspension for a positive drug test continues at Dodger Stadium against the Astros.The Dodgers open a nine-game homestand that continues through July 26, so there will be plenty of time for Ramirez's faux dreadlock-wearing fans to hail him from the Mannywood section of the lower left-field stands in fair territory. The promotion -- two T-shirts and two tickets for $99 -- is back on track for the first time since Ramirez was suspended May 7 for what turned out to be the use of a fertility drug called human chorionic gonadotropin. And like Dodger Stadium as a whole Thursday, the roughly 500 seats are expected to be sold out. "We welcome him back with open arms, but we aren't glorifying his return," Charles Steinberg, the team's executive vice president of communications, told The Associated Press. "The magic of the return is the embrace from the fans that will see him again. We're keeping the focus on the team, of which Manny is an integral part." The homestand also includes a long-ago scheduled Ramirez bobblehead night next Wednesday, July 22, against the Reds -- a game that's also expected to have a fan in every seat. Manny has weathered his return both mentally and physically as well as anyone could have anticipated. After a five-game Minor League rehab stint, Ramirez returned to the Dodgers' lineup on July 3 at PETCO Park in San Diego, where at least half the crowd of 42,217 seemed to be blue-clad L.A. fans who made the trek 120 miles south down the San Diego Freeway. He didn't have a hit that night in four plate appearances. Manny's initial three-stop return before the All-Star break included sets in New York and Milwaukee, where Ramirez told waiting media what he said in San Diego: He wasn't going to talk about drugs or his suspension. He had already apologized to the fans, Dodgers ownership and his teammates, and he didn't need to explain anything further. The 50-game suspension was tough, Ramirez said. "But it's over. I'm moving on." And move on the slugger has. After a slow start, Manny's batting .379 (11-for-28) with three homers, two doubles, nine RBIs, a .471 on-base percentage and a .759 slugging percentage in the nine games since his return. He's been ejected from one game, but he's hit safely in his past six. That's a more torrid pace than the .348 batting average, six homers and 20 RBIs he had in 27 games on May 6, the last day he played before his suspension.
|"The magic of the return is the embrace from the fans that will see him again. We're keeping the focus on the team, of which Manny is an integral part."|
|-- Dodgers executive vice president of communications Charles Steinberg|
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.