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03/12/09 8:02 PM ET

Manny's debut delayed by hamstring

Ramirez scratched shortly before Dodgers' game vs. Team Korea

PHOENIX -- Outfielder Manny Ramirez was scratched from the Dodgers lineup one hour before Thursday's exhibition game with Team Korea because of a tight left hamstring muscle, the Dodgers announced.

"Maybe age is catching up to me," said Ramirez, who turns 37 in May.

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Ramirez said he felt his left hamstring tighten while doing baserunning drills Thursday morning.

"I was going second to home and it just felt kind of tight," he said. "I only felt it today. It wasn't that bad, just a little tight. I'll give it a try tomorrow."

Ramirez said the only serious hamstring injury he's had was in 1995 and he couldn't remember one in Spring Training.

Ramirez, expected to be the designated hitter in the game against Team Korea's World Baseball Classic entrant, told manager Joe Torre he was able to play, but Torre scratched him anyway.

"It's no pull or anything. He wanted to play, but I didn't think there was much sense in that," said Torre. "He can DH [Friday] and we'll see what to do Saturday. We'll try to get the DH [in a game against the Brewers], or we may have to get him in a "B" game [against the White Sox]."

It would have been Ramirez's first exhibition game, one week after signing a two-year, $45 million contract.

Ramirez said earlier this week that his lower body was sore from all of the running he had been doing, and he repeated that he has spent extra time during his one week in camp trying to "catch up" to the rest of his team, which reported roughly three weeks before he did.

"I've been trying to get ready. I need a whole Spring Training," Ramirez said. "I need 40 to 50 at-bats, the same thing as when I was in Boston. But I'm not disappointed. I know it will get better."

After Thursday, the Dodgers have 24 remaining exhibition games.

Ramirez was batting third in a lineup Torre said was not necessary a reflection on his thinking for an everyday batting order this year.

"I let Donnie [Mattingly, hitting coach] do that and he decides who needs at-bats," Torre said of the batting order. "We'll fiddle around with it a little bit. I don't know what we're going to do."

Speedy switch-hitters Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson were at the top, followed by Ramirez. Torre had Andre Ethier protecting Ramirez in the cleanup spot, followed by Russell Martin, just returned from Team Canada and the Classic.

James Loney followed Martin, then Casey Blake and Matt Kemp. Juan Pierre, starting in left field, batted ninth.

Torre said Ramirez "thrived" when moved from fourth to third last season, and Ramirez has indicated he prefers to bat third. A bigger decision seems to be who bats behind Ramirez. It was Loney against right-handed pitching and Martin against left-handed pitching in last year's playoffs.

"Protecting Manny is the first priority at this point," said Torre.

As for Ramirez, he hammed it up for the ESPN cameras early in the morning, hijacking a full-size tricycle and peddling in front of the executive office building.

He was his typically friendly self in the clubhouse before his first game and even watched with little emotion an ESPN report that former Red Sox teammate Jonathan Papelbon called him a "cancer" in a magazine article.

"I'm here, not there anymore," he said. "I moved on. I'm in L.A. now. I just focus on playing the game. I have no control what people said or about what I did in the past. It is what it is."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.