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Baseball Notebook

Ramirez back in action

Dodger tries his hand at cricket

Associated Press / March 19, 2009
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Decked out in a chinstrapped red helmet, padded gloves, and pillowy shinguards, Dodger Manny Ramírez watched from the side as a bowler warmed up.

After the first ball kicked up dust and rocketed past him, Ramírez turned and wondered about his safety. But it wasn't long before one of the most feared hitters in baseball felt secure enough to step in and take a few swings with a cricket bat.

"Let me see a fast one," Ramírez said to the bowler, Souvir Bhuta, who fired a hard one-hopper.

"Very good," Ramírez said. "I'm going to talk to [Dodgers owner] Frank [ McCourt]. Maybe we could sign you. We need some pitching."

The Dodgers had yesterday off, so Circus Manny moved to Gilbert, Ariz., where Ramírez took batting lessons from Australian pro Shaun Marsh during a promotional appearance.

Ramírez has been sidelined with a tight hamstring, and he didn't run or play in the field. He said he had been treated at the team's facility before heading over for the demonstration and that he hopes to play in an exhibition game next week.

"I'm feeing better every day," Ramírez said. "We've got three weeks to Opening Day. That's what we're shooting for."

Ramírez chuckled when asked if Dodgers manager Joe Torre had authorized his outing.

"Oh, yeah. I think I'm going to retire and maybe sign with cricket," said Ramírez.

Venezuela tops US
United States manager Davey Johnson was right to have reservations about playing Adam Dunn at first base.

The desperation defensive deployment backfired last night in the World Baseball Classic when Dunn made a wild throw that led to four unearned runs and Venezuela won Group 2 by beating the Americans, 10-6, to conclude second-round play in Miami.

Both teams had already qualified for the semifinals this weekend in Los Angeles.

Venezuela will play the second-seeded team from Group 1 Saturday at Dodger Stadium, and the Americans will play in the other semifinal Sunday. The semifinalists from Group 1 in San Diego will be South Korea and the winner of last night's late game between Cuba and Japan.

Johnson would prefer to play Dunn in the outfield, but with Kevin Youkilis sidelined for the rest of the WBC because of a sprained ankle, there was no better option at first base.

Yankee doodlings
Hideki Matsui won't play in the outfield for the Yankees until at least interleague road games in June and will be restricted to designated hitter and pinch-hitting appearances until then.

Matsui is recovering from left knee surgery last Sept. Yankees manager Joe Girardi doesn't want to take the chance of a setback.

"We need him," said Girardi. "He's a great RBI guy."

Matsui could hit fourth until third baseman Alex Rodriguez returns from right hip surgery, possibly in May.

In other news, closer Mariano Rivera said he felt fine, one day after pitching for the first time in spring training. The righthander, coming off shoulder surgery last Oct. 7, pitched a perfect inning against the Pirates.

Carpenter impressive
Chris Carpenter, who missed most of the last two seasons with arm and shoulder trouble, turned in St. Louis's longest outing of spring training, throwing six scoreless innings in the Cardinals' 3-2 win over the Orioles in Jupiter, Fla. Carpenter, the former New Hampshire high school star and 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner, has thrown 14 scoreless innings this spring . . . Giants lefthander Randy Johnson is scheduled to start against the Mariners Monday after skipping a turn because of soreness in his biceps. He was held out of his start against the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz., for precautionary reasons. Johnson, 45, has a 1.08 ERA in 8 1/3 innings this spring . . . In the Cubs-Giants game, Chicago 3B Corey Koskie, attempting to return after missing the last 2 1/2 seasons with post-concussion syndrome, singled as a pinch hitter in San Francisco's 8-6 win.

Let's honor two
The Cubs are retiring the No. 31 worn by Ferguson Jenkins and Greg Maddux. The team said it will honor the star righthanders during a ceremony before a May 3 game against the Marlins at Wrigley Field. Jenkins, who is already in the Hall of Fame, and Maddux, who won 355 games before retiring in December, are the first pitchers in Cubs history to have their numbers retired . . . Meanwhile, the Cubs are likely to remain under the ownership of Tribune Co. through the early part of the season. Cubs chairman Crane Kenney said it "will be a challenge" to complete the sale of the team by Opening Day April 6 and that talks between the Ricketts family and the Tribune are ongoing . . . The Royals placed lefthander Jimmy Gobble on waivers and he is expected to be released. By waiving him, Gobble will get $331,967 in termination pay instead of his $1.35 million salary.

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