In the dugout hubbub after David Freese’s third home run in four games Tuesday, the rookie saved a special celebratory forearm shiver for the St. Louis Cardinals’ new hitting coach.
For Mark McGwire, it’s moments like this that have made his return to baseball worthwhile.
“To be quite honest, I didn’t know what to expect because I’ve never really been in this situation,” McGwire said. “It’s been very, very enjoyable.”
It’s tough to call the rehabilitation of McGwire’s public image anything but a success. Last week, the Cardinals traveled to their fifth National League city and, for the fifth time, there was no discernible public backlash for what was viewed during the winter as a controversial hire. No jeering fans, no “Cheaters Go Home!” banners, nothing.
At least, nothing negative.
“Yeah, I’d hire him,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “Because of things I’ve seen him do, and I know how much he likes the game and how much he’d put into it, too.”
It’s this kind of feedback that’s allowed McGwire to settle into a comfortable, behind-the-scenes role with his old team.
“So far, so good,” McGwire said. “I think people have really moved on from the subject. People are tired of hearing about it.”
The subject, of course, is steroids. Last winter, McGwire ended years of denials and a self-imposed exile by admitting he used steroids and human growth hormone on and off for a decade, starting before the 1990 season and including when he broke Roger Maris’ single-season home run record in 1998.
The confession came in January, about three months after he was hired by the Cardinals and a month before the start of spring training.
The statements and interviews — and the comfort zone he’s in now as a Cardinals coach — were all part of a carefully crafted plan.
Before he came clean, McGwire hired former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer to raise his chances of getting a positive response. Fleischer said his advice to McGwire was simply that he be himself.
He scoffed at the notion Big Mac’s tearful confessions had been orchestrated, the delivery scripted.
“I just helped get him ready with what he wanted to say,” Fleischer said. “It was Mark. Mark is emotional, Mark is heartfelt. If you’re not real, if you’re not sincere, people will see right through it.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers activated Manny Ramirez from the 15-day disabled list after he missed 14 games because of a right calf strain.
The Dodgers were 6-8 while Ramirez was on the DL, and also lost the two other games in which he did not play. Last year they went 29-21 during the 12-time All-Star’s 50 game suspension for testing positive for a banned drug.
Minnesota star Joe Mauer’s deeply bruised left heel is feeling much better. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Mauer is “getting real close” to returning to the lineup ... Catcher Bengie Molina left the San Francisco Giants’ game against the New York Mets with a tight left hamstring. ... The Houston Astros activated infielder Chris Johnson from the disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Round Rock before their game against San Diego. ... Second baseman Luis Castillo left the New York Mets’ game against the San Francisco Giants with a bruised left foot. ... The Diamondbacks activated outfielder Conor Jackson from the 15-day disabled list before their against Milwaukee. ... Slugger Paul Konerko was back in the Chicago White Sox’s lineup against the Toronto Blue Jays after missing two games because of a sore neck. … The New York Yankees placed Nick Johnson on the 15-day disabled list with a right wrist injury, then called up utility infielder Kevin Russo from Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, where he was hitting .302.