SAN DIEGO (AP) — Manny Ramirez returned to the big leagues as only he could.

Wearing sunglasses and with his famous dreadlocks in a ponytail, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ slugger apologized to fans and teammates during a news conference Friday afternoon. He refused to answer questions about steroids, laying off them as if they were pitches in the dirt.

“I’m here. I’m excited. I can’t wait to get into the field,” Ramirez said as his 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy ended.

He was cheered by a hundred or so fans as he bounded up the dugout steps and onto the field at Petco Park two hours before the first pitch of the Dodgers’ game against the San Diego Padres.

There was a playoff atmosphere during batting practice, with dozens of photographers following Ramirez and extra security on the field.

Ramirez also brought along a new catch phrase.

“Showtime tonight!” he said as he walked out of his pregame news conference.

With his dreads flowing from under his batting helmet, he walked in his first at-bat, then was forced at second. Padres right-hander Chad Gaudin brushed back Ramirez with the first pitch of the seven-pitch at-bat. Ramirez just smiled.

It was a loud at-bat, with Dodgers fans standing and cheering, and Padres fans trying to drown them out with boos. The sold-out crowd at Petco Park looked and sounded more like it belonged at Dodger Stadium.

Ramirez popped up to end the sixth, jogged to the dugout to get his glove and cap, then headed for the clubhouse, his night finished. He was 0 for 3 with a walk.

Ramirez’s ban was based on evidence he used human chorionic gonadotropin, a fertility drug that’s banned by baseball, a person familiar with the suspension told The Associated Press after the suspension was announced on May 7, speaking on condition of anonymity because those details were not released.

HCG is popular among steroid users because it can mitigate the side effects of ending a cycle of the drugs.

Ramirez refused several times to talk about the reason for his suspension.

“First I want to say that God is good and good is God. I don’t want to get into my medical records right now. I’m happy to be here. I missed the game. I’m ready to play. I was practicing in Triple-A and I can’t wait to get into the field.”

He did apologize.

“Well, I want to say I’m sorry to the fans, to my teammates that they’re always there for me,” Ramirez said. “I want to thank Frank McCourt for his support,” he added, referring to the Dodgers’ owner.

Asked what he was sorry for, he said: “Not being there for them. For not playing the game, because I’m a huge part of the Dodgers and I’m proud to wear that uniform. When I say I’m sorry, I let those fans down, that they go out there to see me.”

Ramirez seemed relaxed yet said he felt “a lot” of anxiety. “But I’m pretty sure I can handle it. This is not my first rodeo. So I know I’m going to be fine. I know I can play this game. I’m going to enjoy it the most I can.”

He also admitting being embarrassed by the whole episode.

“But we’re humans. We learn from our mistake.”

Teammate Andre Ethier was happy to see Ramirez back.

“It’s nice. It’s just a thing where I guess we got our team back to square one where we were when we started the year,” Ethier said. “We got a little sidetracked with him getting suspended. But we’re ready to go and in the same place or even a little better position than when we lost him.”

Ramirez was suspended on May 7, and the Dodgers lost 11-9 that night to the Washington Nationals, leaving them with a 5½-game lead atop the NL West. They entered Friday night’s game with a 7½-game lead.

“I’m not mad anymore,” Ethier said. “He made a mistake. It was his choice. I guess I’d be more mad if we were sitting 10 games under .500 right now after his suspension and weren’t in a good spot. But we came back and played well and are able to be a better team because of him.

“You can’t expect too much out of any player after that long, but someone of his caliber, he can surprise you with the way he’s ready,” Ethier added.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre and general manager Ned Colletti listened to Ramirez’s news conference. Agent Scott Boras sat at the slugger’s side.

“I think he’s very uncomfortable at this,” Torre said. “When you weed all through the whole thing, he didn’t deny doing something wrong and he apologized for it and he doesn’t really want to talk about it.

“I think it’s going to be uncomfortable for him for a while,” the manager added. “Baseball is a great place to go and try to bury yourself, basically, as far as concentration and trying not to be distracted. But I think it’s going to be a little time before he gets his legs under him.”

Torre said he’s not sure if Ramirez will play in all three games of this series.

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