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Cleveland Indians

Manny (probably) can't go home again

By Sheldon Published: April 13, 2009

It didn't take long for Manny Ramirez to realize he never had it so good playing for the Indians.

After signing an eight-year, $160 million contract with the Red Sox after the 2000 season, he communicated his desire to return to the Tribe to clubhouse personnel and some of his former Tribe teammates, particularly utility infielder Enrique Wilson.

Since then, Ramirez has periodically repeated the wish, sometimes in public. The most recent expression of that sentiment came in Monday's USA Today, with Ramirez telling a reporter, ""I would like to play for Cleveland one more time, to go back to where I started. I have so many good memories there, why not?''

Why not? Ramirez, who will be 37 on May 30, will make $25 million this year with the Dodgers, who signed him to a two-year deal during spring training. Ramirez can opt out of the second season if he wishes, but it would be unwise for him to think the Indians will pay anything close to that.

"That's not something I think about,'' manager Eric Wedge said about rejoining the Tribe. ""I have enough on my plate right now. I'm sure his teammates feel the same way about what they have on their plates.'' 

Regardless of the unlikelihood of Ramirez coming back to Cleveland, he can still talk about it. Moreover, he can suggest that he and Jim Thome return together.

"Me and Thome back to Cleveland, that would be sweet,'' Ramirez said.

Ramirez spoke to Thome about playing for the Indians again.

"Manny was very sincere when he brought that up,'' said Thome, the designated hitter for the White Sox who can be a free agent after the season.

""Manny was saying how special it would be for us to go back together.'' 

Thome left to sign a six-year, $85 million with the Phillies following the 2002 season, after turning down a multi-year contract worth about $60 million from the Tribe.

Both players are nearing the end of their careers, and both are almost certain inductees into the Hall of Fame. How much would it be worth for the Indians to allow their fans to see Thome and Ramirez hit their 600th home run?

Not enough to make their return a probability. Going into Monday night's action, Thome had 543 home runs, Ramirez 527.

Jhonny Peralta knows Ramirez from his years as a Tribe minor leaguer. Ramirez was on the big-league team at the time.

"Sounds good to me,'' Peralta said. ""Manny is a little crazy, but he can play. He can hit.''

THE WINNER --Aaron Laffey was the first runnerup in the competition to win the final spot in the Indians rotation in spring training, but he will get another chance Wednesday against the Royals.

With Scott Lewis on the disabled list because of a strained forearm, manager Eric Wedge needs a starter, and Laffey will be the man.

"I think he deserves the first shot,'' Wedge said. ""He wasn't particularly pleased when we sent him out, so now we'll see how he does.''

Lewis beat back competition from derby Laffey, Jeremy Sowers and David Huff in training camp. Huff isn't ready for a big-league assignment, and Sowers didn't make his first start of the season until Monday night at Columbus.

Laffey allowed five runs and six hits in 3 1/3 innings in his first Triple-A start of the season.

"He was real good early and not so good later on,'' Wedge said. ""We kept his pitch count down to about 60 becausae he's going to havw to start on three days rest.''

ALL NOT LOST -- Don't count out Sowers or even Zach Jackson if Laffey stumbles in his start Wednesday afternoon.

"We considered Jackson,'' Wedge said. ""But we think he has value in the bullpen.''

Is Wedge committed to Laffey until Lewis comes off the DL, as long as four weeks hence?

"Laffey will make his first start, and we'll evaluate our rotation from there,'' the manager said.

SOUVENIR CITY -- Trevor Crowe took home a treasure trove of mementos after getting his first big-league hit Sunday, including two lineup sheets and three baseballs, one the ball he hit for a two-run double.

Crowe struck out in his first two at-bats, swinging at six of seven pitches. That prompted a conversation with hitting coach Derek Shelton.

"He told me I needed to calm down, just relax but be aggressive,'' Crowe said. ""And he was right.''

It's not exactly rare for a rookie called up to replace an injured player to try and do too much. 

   ""I don't know how long I'm going to be here,'' Crowe said. ""So every time I'm in the game, I want to do something that helps us win.''

CAUTIONARY MOVE -- Columbus outfielder Matt LaPorta left the second game of a doubleheader against Louisville Saturday with tightness in his right midsection. 

He was held out of Sunday's game, but the injury is not believed to be serious.

FARM FACTS -- Wes Hodges had a double and single and Michael Brantley each had two singles in Columbus' 5-1 loss to Louisville... Matt McBride doubled twice and drove in two runs, and Zach Putnam (1-0, 1.80 ERA) gave up one run and five hits in five innings, as Kinston defeated Winston-Salem 6-2. Matt Brown doubled, singled and had two RBI... Donnie Webb homered and drove in two runs, but Lake County lost to Hagerstown 9-2.

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