The Albuquerque turkey? Nope, it's just Manny Ramirez(notes), who made his first step back toward the Dodgers with his first minor-league rehab start Tuesday night in New Mexico. Man-Ram was an uneventful 0-for-2, but brought plenty of publicity for his host, the AAA-level Isotopes, as well as for Southwest (the airline he flew to ABQ), Smet (the shirt he showed up in) and Nissan (the car I think he drove in on). We'll do it all again tonight and Thursday before Ramirez heads back to California — hopefully he'll get A group this time — and gets a few more minor league hacks before being reinstated on July 3.
Though some dopes didn't show in New Mexico because they believe Ramirez should be required to sit out the full 50 games before even thinking about coming back — a dumb notion, considering it's a MLB suspension — there were still plenty of folks on hand to document the Ramirez revival in the sleepy Southwest. Find a few of their excerpts below.
Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times: "Ramirez started his week-long tour of the minor leagues with a strikeout and a groundout in his first two at-bats, which were preceded by standing ovations from the standing-room only crowd at Isotopes Park. Starting in left field and batting first for the Dodgers triple-A affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes, Ramirez saw six pitches in his first at-bat, which ended with a swinging strike. He grounded out to short on a 1-and-0 pitch in the third inning."
Tim Brown, Yahoo! Sports: "Ten days before he would be allowed back into a big-league park for reasons other than batting practice or a good massage, he settled into a couple corner lockers in the home clubhouse at charming Isotopes Park. He took his indoor batting practice in private behind a beefy security guard in an area ordinarily open to reporters, but not on Tuesday. For hours before he consented to answer a few questions, he ducked behind doors and teammates and light comedy. "Media out!" he screamed at one point, kicking out a door stop and slamming a door behind him. He was joking. Mostly."
T.J. Simers, LA Times: "Dodgers' PR guy Josh Rawitch ... is also here to tell the media that Manny doesn't want the media "banging on the batting cage while he's inside," so everyone needs to move to the field or the clubhouse. The Times' Dylan Hernandez appears disappointed, all his life wanting to come to Albuquerque and bang on the batting cage while Manny's inside trying to hit a ball off a tee. Manny can hit a 94-mph fastball in front of 50,000 screaming fans, but for some reason Hernandez unnerves him while facing a tee."
Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal: "Since the collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association allows this, Albuquerque might as well benefit. There were few complaints from anyone at Isotopes Park on Tuesday. Ramirez came down the tunnel from the locker room to the field at 6:43 p.m., to tumultuous cheers from a Manny-driven, Isotopes all-time record crowd of 15,321 — drowning out a few boos that didn't even merit smattering status. Manny rewarded the crowd's adulation by signing autographs near the Isotopes' dugout before trotting out to left field for the first inning."
Finally, here's a TV report from Albuquerque's KRQE (H/N Blue Heaven):