SAN DIEGO – Manny Ramirez returned to the big leagues as only he could.
Wearing sunglasses and with his famous dreadlocks in a ponytail, the Los Angeles Dodgers slugger apologized to fans and teammates during a news conference Friday afternoon. He refused to answer questions about steroids, laying off them as if they were pitches in the dirt.
“I’m here. I’m excited. I can’t wait to get into the field,” Ramirez said as his 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy ended.
Ramirez also had a new catch phrase.
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“Showtime tonight!” he said as he walked out of his pregame news conference.
It was for the Dodgers, who jumped to a 5-0 first-inning lead, but not for Ramirez, who looked like a guy who hadn’t faced big league pitching since May 6.
With his dreads flowing from under his batting helmet, he walked in his first at-bat, then was forced at second. Padres right-hander Chad Gaudin brushed back Ramirez with the first pitch of the seven-pitch at-bat. Ramirez just smiled.
It was a loud at-bat, with Dodgers fans standing and cheering, and Padres fans trying to drown them out with boos. The sellout crowd at Petco Park looked and sounded more like it belonged at Dodger Stadium.
Ramirez popped up to end the sixth, jogged to the dugout to get his glove and cap, then headed for the clubhouse, his night finished. He went 0-for-3 with a walk.
Ramirez’s ban was based on evidence he used human chorionic gonadotropin, a fertility drug that’s banned by baseball, a person familiar with the suspension told The Associated Press after the suspension was announced on May 7, speaking on condition of anonymity because those details were not released.
HCG is popular among steroid users because it can mitigate the side effects of ending a cycle of the drugs.
Ramirez refused several times to talk about the reason for his suspension.
“First I want to say that God is good and good is God. I don’t want to get into my medical records right now. I’m happy to be here. I missed the game. I’m ready to play. I was practicing in Triple-A and I can’t wait to get into the field.”
He did apologize.
“Well, I want to say I’m sorry to the fans, to my teammates that they’re always there for me,” Ramirez said.