A Familiar Face at Dodger Stadium

Manny Ramirez returned to Dodger Stadium to work out for the first time since being suspended for 50 games after violating the MLB drug policy. He took batting practice, ran, played catch and did some strength training. He will be eligible to return to action sometime around the 4th of July.

Manny left the game early on May 5 and fled from Dodger Stadium just before it was made official that he had been suspended by the Commissioner's Office.

He returned and spoke to owner Frank McCourt at Ramirez's apartment in Pasadena, then left again on a self-imposed exile in Miami. When the Dodgers played the Marlins in Miami two weeks ago, he spoke to the team at the club's hotel and hasn't been seen since until his return Monday.

According to Los Angeles Times' sources, Ramirez plans to maintain a low public profile. The All-Star outfielder won't address the media this week and is expected to offer few details about his use of banned substances when he does.

With his teammates in Denver to face the Rockies in a Memorial Day game, Ramirez returned to California from his Florida home and apparently will continue working out at Chavez Ravine while the club is out of town through the week, playing in Colorado, then in Chicago against the Cubs

MLB rules allow suspended players to work out with their clubs, but they must be off the field by the time stadium gates open.

Since Ramirez left the club, its record is 10-7 and its division lead has increased from 6 1/2 games to 7 1/2 games. Juan Pierre, who has started all 17 games in left field since the suspension, is batting .397 with 16 runs scored.

Ramirez has 33 games remaining on his 50-game suspension and is eligible to return no sooner than July 3.

Furcal's Stiff Back
Yes, Rafael Furcal is experiencing back pains but no, it isn't the part of his back that he had surgically repaired last year.

Manager Joe Torre and the medical staff decided not to take any chances with what they called a strained buttocks and held Furcal out of the Dodgers' 16-6 victory over the Rockies. Trainer Stan Conte called the move precautionary, and Furcal said he expected to be back in the lineup today.

And Furcal assured everyone, "This isn't something that will keep me out for three or four days."

Furcal said he jammed his left leg when he reached for a ground ball in Philadelphia two weeks ago. Conte said the injury is unrelated to the back problems that required Furcal to undergo surgery and miss 4 1/2 months last season.

Furcal has hit only .219 in the eight games he has played since the Dodgers left Philadelphia but didn't blame his inability to get out of his season-long slump on the sore muscle.

Furcal is batting .238 this year and said he still hasn't regained his timing at the plate, something he blames on having missed so much of last season.

Furcal's seven errors are the most among National League shortstops, but he said he wasn't particularly concerned about his defense, noting that most of his errors were throwing mistakes. Reaching balls, he said, hasn't been a problem.

Ethier' Toe Rests Another Day
Outfielder Andre Ethier was out of the lineup for the second consecutive day because of soreness in the big toe of his right foot. Ethier, who split his toenail in spring training, was hit there Saturday by a pitch from the Angels' John Lackey.

Torre said he held out Ethier for another day because the Rockies were starting a left-hander, Jorge De La Rosa. Ethier could be back in the lineup tonight.

"It feels a lot better than it did yesterday," Ethier said.

Two for the DL
Chattanooga Lookouts' catcher Lucas May and infielder/outfielder Gaby Martinez were placed on the disabled list recently. May broke a bone in his wrist in Huntsville and tried to play through it, while Martinez broke a bone in his hand in a loss to Tennessee.

Both players were hitting .298, with Martinez ranking second in the Southern League with 31 RBIs and fifth with seven homers.

"Obviously they were swinging the bats well, and it's a big blow for us," Lookouts manager John Valentin said. "We've got to keep going. We wish them well and hope they can come back soon, but we're probably looking at four to six weeks with both of them."

Taking their spots were catcher Mike Rose and infielder Eduardo Perez, who arrived from high Single-A Inland Empire. Perez was hitting .353, which ranked fourth in the California League.

Peavey Trade
Peter Gammons, talking about the trade proposal that would have sent Padres ace Jake Peavey to the White Sox had the pitcher not turned down the deal, said, "If the Padres have to wait for the Cubs, the Cardinals or -- and they don't even want to think about this -- the Dodgers until the deadline, their chances of getting anything close to Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard and two other pitchers are slim.

Diamond Leung, in his Diamond Notes website, reports that Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti told Dan Patrick that the Dodgers discussed Jake Peavy with the Padres a few times, most recently about a month ago. After talking with Padres GM Kevin Towers, it doesn't appear the two teams are a match. "He told me that if we're going to make a deal with the Dodgers, we're going to make you guys pay like nobody else," Colletti said.

The asking price? Colletti said at one point it was three players on their 25-man roster plus a "strong prospect."

Dodger Blue Notes --Russell Martin stole his 55th base on Monday, tying him for second with Lew Ritter for most steals by a catcher in franchise history. ...Left-hander Victor Garate was activated from the DL earlier this week after recovering from a knee sprain.

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