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Ramirez had three stints on the disabled list this season with leg injuries. He missed 58 games, and because the Dodgers didn’t have the luxury of a DH, they decided to waive him rather than trade the superstar and get something in return.

Ramirez said he doesn’t begrudge the Dodgers for letting him go, but wonders why manager Joe Torre didn’t have him in the lineup more.

“I just feel blessed that I played for them,” he said. “I only played 60 games for them this year, but I don’t understand why I didn’t play more _ especially at the end.”

Ramirez was asked how he feels physically.

“Like a 25-year-old,” he said.

He said only God knows how long he can keep playing, but Ramirez said he remains driven.

“I still have that fire to compete,” he said. “As long as I have that fire to compete, I’m going to keep playing. As soon as that fire leaves, it’s time to go.”

Ramirez has long had a reputation for being lackadaisical. His casual stride and style make it look that way. Guillen is sure he will get the most the 38-year-old Ramirez can give.

“He will hustle. He will. You treat Manny with respect and he’s fine,” Guillen said. “All I want him to do is drive in runs. He will run. I don’t say he’s going to run like Juan Pierre. But he will run like Manny. I wish he can play every day, but I don’t know. He’s not 15 anymore.

“Right now, I can’t say we are a better team because Manny hasn’t played. He is not the same player as when he went to LA. He was the type of player who could carry a team in the past. Do we want that to happen? Of course we do. But we’ll be happy if he comes in and helps.”

It was hard to tell if Ramirez had cut his flowing hair, which has become as much his trademark as almost any of his 554 career homers. Guillen isn’t worried about Ramirez’s appearance and will leave those issues to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

“That’s Jerry’s problem,” Guillen said. “That is not in my rules. As a manager, I appreciate Jerry’s rules, but the only thing I can do is bench him. We brought him here to play. I stay away from that. If I was Manny, I would try to keep the chairman happy.”

Ramirez refused to address his fall from grace in both Boston and Los Angeles, two cities where his popularity soared as his home runs sailed over outfield walls. Each stay ended badly, but he insists that the past is the past and that he has moved on.

When it became obvious his days in LA were numbered, the “Mannywood” sign on the short fence in the left-field corner of Dodgers Stadium was removed and replaced with ads for an insurance company. Ramirez, though, said he didn’t see that as an end to his time in a town he said he loved.

“I didn’t give it too much thought because the checks were going to keep on coming,” he said. “Blue ones.”

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