05/20/12 2:13 AM ET
Manny eager to regain his rhythm in Triple-A
Slugger goes hitless, fans three times in opener with River Cats
By Chris Jackson / Special to MLB.com
A humbled Manny Ramirez spoke of his renewed faith and his determination to get back to the Major Leagues, prior to going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Saturday night as he began a 10-game Minor League stint.
The controversial slugger, who retired from baseball last season after a second positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, is starting his comeback with the A's Triple-A Sacramento River Cats.
"First, I want to thank God for bringing me back to the game I love," said Ramirez, who signed a Minor League contract with the Oakland Athletics this offseason. "I'm excited to come back and play, and do what I do."
Ramirez served a 50-game suspension and is now allotted a 10-game rehabilitation stint in the Minors. He hit third and served as the designated hitter for the River Cats against the Albuquerque Isotopes.
"This is a time that I have to go out there, take a lot of pitches, get my rhythm [back], feel good like I feel, and then move on," Ramirez said.
Ramirez took batting practice with Sacramento on Friday, hitting several home runs off of the left-field scoreboard. "I feel great, I feel awesome," Ramirez said. "I'm ready to roll."
Despite sporting a little gray in his hair -- "That's when you start getting smarter," he quipped -- Ramirez still looks like the same player who put up big numbers with the Indians, Red Sox and Dodgers earlier in his career.
"It's been great, man, I can't complain," Ramirez said. "I work hard, I'm expecting the best out of me, so I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Ramirez said the decision to come back to baseball was an easy one.
"When I retired, I was all over the place, you know, and a bunch of fans, they told me, 'We miss you. Why don't you come back? The game is not the same without you,'" Ramirez said. "So my wife she put it [in] my mind, we started working little by little. God gave me the opportunity to be here, and I'm here."
Ramirez said he was meant to be with the A's organization. "Like I said, God put it in their heart," Ramirez said. "There were a couple of teams interested in me, but me and my wife, we choose this one and that's why I'm here."
While the slugger's deal is not guaranteed, Ramirez said he did not feel like he has to prove he belongs with the A's. "They know what I can do," he said. "I know what I've got to do. I'm going to do better than when I got to L.A. in '08."
Ramirez has received plenty of criticism for his past infractions of baseball's drug policy, but he said he is not paying attention to those who consider him to be a cheater or bad for the game.
"I don't worry about what people say, I worry about what God says," Ramirez said.
Ramirez feels he is already in game shape, now it is just about the fine-tuning that any player on a rehab assignment would be focusing on.
"I've been working out every day, so it's about getting the timing, facing pitches," Ramirez said.
He also promised that the power that fans come to expect is still there even as he approaches his 40th birthday on May 30.
Chris Jackson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.