Manny Ramirez called ‘cancer’ by former teammate Papelbon

One former Boston teammate blasted him, another may be joining him.

Just another day in Mannyzona.

Imagine if the star attraction had actually played.

Manny Ramirez didn’t make his much-anticipated spring-game debut Thursday because of a tight hamstring. But there were a couple of interesting topics to talk about anyway.


Red Sox pitcher Jonathan Papelbon’s calling Ramirez a “cancer” for one. Dodgers Manager Joe Torre’s confirming the club’s interest in free-agent pitcher Pedro Martinez for another.

Papelbon’s comments came in an Esquire magazine story that was posted on the publication’s website. In it, Boston’s closer was quoted as saying, “It just takes one guy to bring an entire team down, and that’s exactly what was happening,” before the Red Sox traded Ramirez to the Dodgers. “Once we saw that, we weren’t afraid to get rid of him. It’s like cancer. That’s what he was. Cancer. He had to go.”

Before a Red Sox exhibition game in Florida on Thursday, Papelbon stood by his comments, saying he told the truth.

Ramirez mostly waved off the remarks. “I’ve already moved on with my life,” he said. “I wish everybody the best. I’m in L.A. now.”

Asked if the comments upset him, Ramirez said, “I’m just focused on playing here. I don’t got no control over what people said or what I did in the past.

“I’m just going to do the same thing I did last year, go and play hard and move on.”

Ramirez, 36, recently signed a two-year, $45-million contract with the Dodgers, for whom he hit .396 with 17 home runs and 53 runs batted in in 53 regular-season games, helping the team to the National League West title and league championship series.

“I don’t care what anybody else says about Manny,” Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake said. “He’s been nothing but a joy to be around and a great teammate.”

Torre also defended Ramirez, saying the slugger had been “no problem whatsoever” with the Dodgers.

“People certainly have their opinions, they’re entitled to them, but that stuff doesn’t move me one way or the other,” Torre said.

“My concern is Manny and how he plays for the Dodgers, and so far so good.”

As for that other pitcher and former Ramirez teammate, Martinez, Torre reiterated that the Dodgers were keeping an eye him.

“I can’t say we have no interest at all” Torre said, one day after Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti told The Times’ Bill Plaschke that Martinez was “somebody we’re curious about.”

“I share Ned’s comment about the curiosity . . . especially with the ballclub trying to figure out who their fifth starter is,” said Torre, who frequently faced Martinez when he managed the New York Yankees.

“Does that mean we’re on the threshold of signing him? No. I don’t think there’s been any contact that’s been made.”

Martinez, 37, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, is a free agent after spending the last four seasons with the New York Mets. Recently, he pitched well for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, throwing six scoreless innings and giving up only one hit.

The Dodgers could use a solid fifth starter, joining Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda and Randy Wolf in the rotation.

Torre this week said that the club’s fifth starter might be right-hander Jason Schmidt, 36, who because of shoulder problems has made only six starts in his two years with the team.

On Thursday, Wolf threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings and Chin-lung Hu singled in two runs in the Dodgers’ 4-2 win over Korea’s WBC entrant in front of a crowd of 5,810.

Of course, many of those fans had come to get a look at Ramirez, who had been penciled in to be the designated hitter before he was scratched from the lineup.

Ramirez said he told Torre that he wanted to play despite the hamstring problem, but was told, “No, let’s take one more day off.”

Ramirez was aiming to make his debut today, when the Dodgers were scheduled to play the Texas Rangers in another home game.

“I’m not disappointed,” he added. “You have plenty of time to get ready and that’s in my favor.”

The fans tried to have fun anyway, wryly chanting, “Man-ny! Man-ny!” when Ramirez’s replacement, Mark Loretta stepped to the plate.


Billingsley is scheduled to be the starter today. . . . Torre said Schmidt’s next start could come Monday when the Dodgers play split-squad games against Seattle and Oakland.