Ramirez ejected after called third strike

NEW YORK -- For someone just back, Manny Ramirez made quite an exit.

After looking at another strike three, the Los Angeles Dodgers star dropped his bat, tossed his helmet and flung his elbow pad Tuesday night. Booed for much of the game against the New York Mets, Ramirez then heard his departure cue from plate umpire John Hirschbeck.

Ramirez was ejected as he walked toward the outfield for the bottom of the fifth inning. By that point, he'd done enough damage, driving in three runs as the Dodgers won 8-0.

"I didn't want to throw even more fire. I just walked away," he said. "I only play five innings, so I was leaving anyway."

Such an abrupt end to what began as a jovial evening for the formerly suspended slugger.

Hours before game time, Ramirez walked into the clubhouse, spotted the waiting flock and broke into a familiar grin.

"Whoa. Whoa," the Dodgers' main man said. "Most wanted."

Far from his fans in Southern California, Ramirez received a less-than-sunny reception in his first at-bat. That said, the flailing Mets drew a much harsher reaction from the crowd at Citi Field.

"The fans have been great to me, especially in L.A., so what can I say? I'm just blessed, wherever I go," he said.

Booed for about 20 seconds when he came up, Ramirez took a 3-2 pitch from Mike Pelfrey, chucked his bat aside and began heading toward first base. Not so fast, it was strike three.

Ramirez spun around and argued for a moment, to the crowd's delight, and kept barking from the dugout.

The affable Ramirez came up the next inning, met Hirschbeck with a smile and spread his hands about a foot apart -- it looked like an indication the disputed pitch missed the plate. But the crew chief said Ramirez told him it was indeed strike three.

"I said, 'Thanks, I appreciate it,'" Hirschbeck said.

Up with the bases loaded and two outs, Ramirez shattered his bat with two-run single and added an RBI single his next time up.

But in the fifth, Ramirez wasn't so jolly after striking out with the bases loaded. He was halfway through the infield when Hirschbeck inspected what Ramirez had thrown and tossed him.

"I didn't have a problem with the bat and the helmet. The elbow pad, tossing it in the air, that's a bit far," Hirschbeck said.

Ramirez took a left turn and went to the dugout while Dodgers manager Joe Torre came out to talk with Hirschbeck.

"The first one, it was a strike. But the last one, it was a ball," Ramirez said.

Torre reckoned the display showed Ramirez "getting back into that competitive mode of his."

"I still think he's uneasy, so he may be a little more sensitive right now," he said.

Ramirez was much more easygoing in the hours leading up to the first pitch. Seeing the pregame throng of reporters, he pretended to count each of them.

"Look at how easy I do it," he said.

He was chatty before the series opener but brushed back all questions about his 50-game suspension for using a banned female fertility drug. He repeated several times that he didn't want to talk about the past, albeit never with a stern tone.

And when it came to the future, he was downright playful. Tapping a reporter's notebook, he said: "Put in a good word for the All-Star Game next year."

Ramirez finished seventh among NL outfielders in fan voting for starting All-Star spots. He is hitting .340 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs and is 3-for-11 since his suspension ended.

Ramirez returned from his penalty over the weekend at San Diego. Many fans made the drive down from Los Angeles to see him at Petco Park, and he was showered with far more cheers than jeers.

In New York, booing is something of a spectator sport. Ramirez was a high school star in the city, and the razzing he got was nothing close to what Atlanta's Chipper Jones routinely receives or even what Mets fans unleash on their own David Wright after a misplay.

A few fans held up placards with drawings of syringes. Still, it was not nearly as severe as the greeting New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez got in May at Baltimore in his first major league game since admitting he used steroids.

Wearing a blue Dodgers shirt, Bill George sat 12 rows off the field, down the left-field line. He's a season ticket-holder at Dodger Stadium and had come East with his teen son on a ballpark tour.

"I think Manny is a talented player and an interesting personality. But I'm not thrilled with his behavior. To put in bluntly, he cheated," George said.

"I won't boo him, but I won't clap for him like he's a returning war hero," he said.