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Tampa Bay Rays say they respect Manny Ramirez, wish him well

PORT CHARLOTTE

The way it worked out, Manny Ramirez's abrupt and disgraced departure in April was a good thing for the Rays.

It allowed Johnny Damon to be the primary DH, opened a spot on the roster for 1B Casey Kotchman and created the opportunity for Sam Fuld to become a legend. Obviously, they did fine without him.

But by choosing "retirement" after failing another drug test rather than serving a 100-game suspension and rejoining them in August, Ramirez essentially deserted the Rays. Usually in the macho world of pro sports, them's fighting words.

But the Rays greatly enjoyed Manny being Manny last spring. And now that the 39-year-old has returned to baseball, signing a minor-league deal with Oakland after negotiations to cut the suspension to 50 games, they say they are happy to see him back, no grudges held.

"That was a very tough point in his life, and I'm sure he had to make a decision that, I guess, he felt suited him the best," LHP David Price said. "Some people might deem it as being selfish, but everybody has their own opinion. …

"I'm fine with it. He messed up, and he owned up to it. I wish him the best, just not against us."

(Assuming Ramirez returns on time, they'll see him July 30-Aug. 1 in Oakland and Aug. 23-25 at the Trop.)

CF B.J. Upton said the players loved being around Ramirez last spring and don't hold anything against him.

"He's a great guy, and I'm glad he came back," Upton said. "Sometimes there's stuff that goes on outside of baseball that needs to be handled first. If he had to walk away at that time, if he felt like that's what he needed to do, he's played this game long enough that if he felt he had to go, then he had to go.

"It says a lot about a guy to go through what he went through and deal with all the criticism and still be able to look people in the eye and say, 'Yes I was wrong but, you know what, I'm going to come back.' That says more than anything to me."

3B Evan Longoria said it was obvious to him how much Ramirez loved the game, and he can understand how hard it is to let go. "So in that respect," Longoria said, "I'm excited to see him get a job and continue to play the game."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: When manager Joe Maddon said last week that his ever-evolving hair may change again in March, he wasn't kidding — there's chatter he might shave his head for charity. … Interesting the Rays have bobble­heads planned for Desmond Jennings, Kyle Farnsworth and DJ Kitty but no promotions — though the T-shirt giveaways haven't been announced — for Upton and 2011 All-Star Matt Joyce. Nor for Carlos Peña, though he signed relatively late. … Friday is the likely renewal date for pre-arbitration-eligible players who don't agree to salary terms. … Who would have thought Damon would be the last 2011 Ray without a job? … Shannon Magrane, daughter of former Rays TV man Joe, advanced to the final 24 in American Idol. … CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman has the Rays No. 8 in his ranking of most- to least-improved. … Rays rep Megan Washington is among the 30 finalists for a spot in the MLB Fan Cave. … RHP Jeff Niemann on going through (and losing) an arbitration hearing: "You never know as a baseball player you could be dissected in so many ways."

Tampa Bay Rays say they respect Manny Ramirez, wish him well 02/25/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 25, 2012 9:18pm]

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