The Associated Press
PHOENIX -- Manny Ramirez arrived at the Oakland Athletics training facility Friday to begin his return to baseball and said he was intent on demonstrating "I can still play."
The A’s are hoping he can return to the level that made him one of the most feared hitters in baseball. Ramirez got off to a good start.
After taking batting practice, in which he hit seven home runs off A’s coach Mike Gallego, Ramirez addressed the media accompanied by his wife, Juliana, and two sons, Manny Jr. and Lucas.
"I was kind of nervous coming to the stadium," Ramirez said. "I’m here because God brought me here. I know a lot of people are, ‘Oh, he’s not going to play anymore,’ but you know something? When God says that they’re going to open the door for you, no matter what anyone says, the door is going to open. That’s why I’m here."
Juliana occasionally put her hand on Ramirez as he spoke about difficulties -- he did not address specifics -- he’s endured since telling Major League Baseball he was retiring a week into the 2011 season. He was arrested last September for allegedly hitting his wife during a domestic altercation.
"I made some mistakes and I want to show my children I can correct them," Ramirez said. "I was about to lose my family. My wife brought me to church. She changed my environment and I found a lot of good people out there."
The 12-time All-Star signed a minor league deal with the A’s on Monday that’s worth $500,000 if he’s added to the big league roster. He will be allowed to participate in spring training games and exhibition games scheduled in Japan, but must serve a 50-game suspension for his second positive drug test before he can play in the regular season for Oakland.
"Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until you lose it, and that’s what happened to me," Ramirez said. "Now I appreciate my family more, my kids, the game. I’ve got a beautiful wife, I’ve got my kids, my family and I’m getting my career back. It’s been a blessing."
Ramirez had retired from the Tampa Bay Rays last season rather than serve a 100-game suspension.
"I’m thankful that I have a job," Ramirez said. "At least I can still play baseball in the minor leagues and work on things."
Ramirez, the career leader in postseason home runs (29) and RBI (78), said he has no expectations other than to show he can play.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said someone of his stature could influence the rest of the team.
"He can be a great example with his work ethic," Melvin said. "We have some young kids and, who knows, maybe something will rub off."
Ramirez is 14th on baseball’s all-time home run list with 555 and 18th on the all-time RBIs list with 1,831 and is a career .312 hitter.