CLEVELAND (AP) — Manny Ramirez packed his equipment into three large, blue travel bags with script “Dodgers” on the sides. Dressed in a pink shirt and plaid suit, he fiddled with his dreadlocked hair, for the moment safe from a barber’s scissors.
His dragged-out debut for Chicago finally over, Ramirez left Cleveland for Boston, the next stop on his first road trip with his new team.
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It’s been perfect — so far.
Ramirez provided only a bloop single in his first game for the White Sox, but for the second straight game his presence was felt in the on-deck circle as Paul Konerko, batting cleanup in front of the colorful slugger, connected for a three-run homer in the eighth inning Wednesday to give Chicago a 6-4 win and a three-game sweep of the Indians.
After weeks of speculation, Ramirez was finally in Chicago’s lineup. Just by being Manny, he seemed to raise confidence in the White Sox that they could come back.
With the win, Chicago improved to 3-0 on a critical 10-game trip as it tries to reel in first-place Minnesota atop the AL Central.
“It’s nice, and it’s needed,” Konerko said of the three-game winning streak since Ramirez was acquired. “Minnesota is going to be up there. The only time we can control what they’re going to do is when we play them.”
Afterward, Ramirez hinted that he may indeed get a haircut, which has been a sensitive issue since the White Sox claimed him off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers. White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s policy is that his players have short hair, and Ramirez seems willing to conform.
“It seems like everywhere I go, people want to talk about the hair,” said Ramirez, who shot down the topic during a news conference Tuesday.
So, will he get it cut?
“Why not?” he said.
Ramirez’s debut with the White Sox was anything but a hit for seven innings. Chicago made three errors, starter Freddy Garcia left with a stiff back and the White Sox were down 4-1 while being stymied by Carlos Carrasco, making his first start for Cleveland in 2010.
But Chicago’s other Ramirez, Alexei, homered off Carrasco to make it 4-2 in the eighth. The Indians pulled Carrasco after a walk, and one out later, Cleveland manager Manny Acta made another pitching change with the heart of the White Sox order coming up.
Justin Germano (0-1) then walked Alex Rios, and Konerko, who can count on seeing better pitches with Ramirez behind him, drove a 1-1 pitch to left to put the White Sox ahead 5-4. Ramirez watched the homer from the on-deck circle, the same place he was in the ninth inning Tuesday when A.J. Pierzynski hit a tiebreaking, three-run homer in Chicago’s 4-3 win.
Ramirez doesn’t need to hit to be a factor.
“When you see Manny behind those guys, you have to be careful how you pitch to them,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Chicago reliever Tony Pena (4-2) pitched three innings after replacing Garcia, who left after four when his back tightened. Chris Sale, the team’s first-round draft pick this year, worked the ninth for his first career save. The left-hander struck out Shin-Soo Choo with the potential tying runs on base to end it.
“I was a little nervous there,” Guillen said. “We kind of put him on the spot. He has a good chance to be great.”
Wearing his familiar No. 99, Ramirez went 1 for 3 in his return to the AL after 2 seasons with Los Angeles. He grounded out in the second, struck out in the fourth, blooped a single to right in the seventh and was hit in the upper back by a 70 mph breaking ball from Germano in the ninth, two pitches after Konerko hit his 33rd homer.
Ramirez admitted he was a little rusty. Because of injuries, he’s made only five starts since June 29.
“I’m trying to take it a pitch at a time,” he said. “I haven’t played for a long time. I’m just trying to get my rhythm and see as many pitches as I can. But I’m getting there.”
Before the rally, Chicago hardly looked like a team in playoff contention. The White Sox kicked the ball around and struggled against Carrasco, recalled from Triple-A Columbus to start the series finale. He allowed six hits and three runs in 7 1-3 innings.
“Carlos was fantastic,” said Acta, whose team could have won all three games. “This is what we envisioned from this kid. Too bad we couldn’t hold it for him at the end. It was a tough series. I hope we can learn from it.”
Along with running a team that always seems constantly embroiled in controversy, Guillen is doing all he can to manage expectations about what Ramirez can do for his club in the season’s final month.
Guillen knows it takes more than one Manny to win.
“A lot of people expect Manny to come in here and be the savior,” Guillen said. “We have 20 or 30 guys out there pulling the same rope. Manny does not have to carry this ballclub. I hope he does. Everybody does. He’s going to make our lineup better. He’ll make people better around him. Our hope is to keep him healthy, play him as much as we can, and just have some fun.”
That’s the case so far.
NOTES: With Ramirez on board, the White Sox are the second team in history to have players with at least 300 (Konerko), 400 (Andruw Jones) and 500 (Ramirez) homers. The 2002 Texas Rangers were the first with Alex Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro. … Of Konerko’s 33 homers, 12 have come in the eighth inning or later. … Indians 1B Matt LaPorta (strained left hip) was out of the starting lineup for the third straight game. He singled as a pinch-hitter in the ninth on Tuesday, and Acta said he had some discomfort in the hip he had surgery on in October.