SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Nine months or so later, it’s hard to say if maybe it’s just a side effect of the women’s fertility drug Manny Ramirez was caught using, or as some predicted from the start, he’s gone back into his Boston shell.

He’s just not the same guy, the life of the party for the better part of two years in Los Angeles, but now it’s almost impossible to get a word out of him.

“Write whatever you want,” is all he would say when asked about his transformation from clubhouse clown to uncooperative grump.

Maybe he’s worried about how he might perform this season without medical assistance, a reasonable concern given his dramatic decline after returning from a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

Maybe his act is no longer finding a receptive audience in the Dodgers’ clubhouse, many of the team’s key contributors now confident in their own abilities as major-league players and needing no validation from Ramirez.

Maybe he needed to show the baseball world that he wasn’t as much trouble as portrayed earlier in order to win a big contract, getting that contract from the Dodgers, so now it’s back to being the guy who lived in his own world in Boston.

Whatever the reason, he shut it down about a week ago after arriving, telling everyone to talk to Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, and then chirping about this being his last year with the Dodgers. It was typical goofy Ramirez, going for the joke, a hint of truth included, but the timing inappropriate.

Two years ago everyone might have laughed it off, but Ramirez’s margin of error shrunk with the revelation he was one of baseball’s cheaters. So a day later, after dismissing the Dodgers with a whole season yet to play, he walked through the clubhouse telling reporters he had five more years to play — three here and two in Japan.

A few days later Ronnie Belliard joined the team, and Ramirez interrupted reporters talking to Belliard while holding an energy drink in his hands. Who better to promote an energy drink than a guy who will go to any lengths to get an additional boost?

Ramirez told reporters he was endorsing the drink, but the name of the drink is so vulgar, it cannot be printed in the newspaper. That didn’t stop someone from tweeting its name, the name of the drink linked to Ramirez and quickly making its way around the Internet.

It was embarrassing, a year after he had become a national embarrassment, and it probably wasn’t the fresh start he had hoped for in starting a new season. Word came later from agent Scott Boras’ office that Ramirez really isn’t endorsing the drink.

Ramirez always has been more sensitive than anyone might imagine given his bluster and confidence at the plate, and like so many others he’s probably also wondering what kind of player he’s going to be this season.

He’s been the one in control of the room, his laugh, jokes or music setting the tone, but when you aren’t the same player you’ve been, other voices become louder. Maybe that explains why he’s already become withdrawn, spending most of his time with a select group of players while telling everyone to go talk to Ethier and Kemp — always a little truth in every crack he makes.

Or maybe he just doesn’t care what people in Los Angeles think about him any more since he knows he won’t be back.

Dodgers fans probably only care if Ramirez can hit and drive in runs, but he was at his best two years ago when he arrived without seemingly a care in the world.

He changed the way fans looked at the Dodgers.

He had everyone laughing, every day a new yuck to keep everyone as loose as he appeared to be, the ball flying off his bat. If his reputation had taken a serious hit in Boston, in Los Angeles he became an overnight sensation, loved by everyone.

Last year, after Manager Joe Torre talked about how hurt Ramirez was after disappointing so many with his drug suspension, Ramirez returned to swing the bat as if it was corked with all of his troubles.

So it’s probably not a good thing to find Ramirez in a funk two weeks into spring training, withdrawn and already thinking about where he might be playing next season.

Whatever the reason, and he’s not talking, if this is what Boston fans predicted Dodgers fans eventually would get from him, then the last laugh will be on Ramirez, who blew a really good thing in Los Angeles.


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