Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 5/29/12
MINNEAPOLIS Baseball may not have seen the last of Manny Ramirez, not yet. He's bounced back every time, after the Red Sox traded him in 2008 to the Dodgers in an attempt to get rid of him at any cost, after he was suspended for 50 games the next season for testing positive for a banned substance.The 12-time All-Star and two-time world champion has since been claimed off waivers by the White Sox. He's signed a 2 million contract with the Rays, where his tenure lasted just five days before he abruptly retired on April 8, 2011. That retirement came as he faced a 100-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance again in spring training.It looked like that might be it. Manny might have been finished being Manny.But now, almost 14 months after that retirement, the slugger's career might be getting its final shot. On Feb. 20, Ramirez signed a minor-league contract with the Oakland A's, and that looming suspension was altered to just 50 games. On Wednesday, the A's will play their 51st game. Ramirez will be eligible, and when the team announced he'd begin a 10-day rehab assignment on May 19 after his extended spring training in Arizona, the murmurs began. The buzz intensified Monday night, when the A's announced that Ramirez would not join the team in Minnesota on Wednesday, which is also his 40th birthday.Right now, Ramirez's status is day-to-day. He needs to see more time with the team's Triple-A squad in Sacramento, where he batted .250 with four RBI (and no extra-base hits). So we wait. We wonder. When will Manny Ramirez get his next shot at the majors?It might seem like an interesting question. It might actually be an interesting question, the start of some sort of story and with Manny, it's usually interesting. To some of Ramirez's former teammates, though, questions about the slugger are the furthest thing from important.Jonny Gomes, a 10-year veteran, said that he's a little bit shocked that Ramirez got a job with the A's in the first place. There's a reason that there aren't many 40-year-olds who have an impact in baseball, Gomes said, and his skepticism isn't a knock on Ramirez. He's more interested than excited about the latest Ramirez saga, intrigued to watch it unfold."It's interesting, because if he comes here and hits. 315 with four or five home runs a month, we'll take it," Gomes said. "If he comes here and hits .000, that's expected too If he comes up here and hits .100, there's going to be people that say I told ya. If he comes up here and hits .340, people out there are going to say I told ya."What most fascinates Gomes is the question mark the Ramirez represents. After such a stellar career, what remains are the obstacles, the personal issues and the erratic behavior. Gomes is impressed with Ramirez, rattling off his stats as if they've been memorized for years, but he's also hesitant to ascribe too much to the A's offseason move. The team is struggling it has a 22-27 record and is batting .211 through Monday but Ramirez isn't necessarily the solution."The team obviously could use a kick-start to the offense, but it's just so interesting that a guy with his career carries such a question mark," Gomes said. "The guy's got 555 homers. He's a career over-.300 hitter, and we're seeing if he can play."Right now, what Gomes sees are the question marks. How do you evaluate a veteran's play at Triple-A? What does Ramirez's average mean? His lack of power? The seven strikeouts in 35 at bats? These are valid concerns. Even Coco Crisp, who was Ramirez's teammate in Boston from 2006-2008 and now plays in Oakland's outfield, isn't certain how Ramirez will perform when he's called up, though he said it's hard to think he won't do well.Crisp is more reverent than is Gomes about Ramirez. He played with him in Boston in 2006, when Ramirez batted .321 and hit 35 home runs. Ramirez was an All-Star every year that Crisp was his teammate, and that's what sticks with the younger player. He thinks Ramirez will provide veteran leadership to the club whenever he arrives; Ramirez is a year older than the team's next-oldest player, Bartolo Colon. Crisp also said Ramirez will be able to help rookie outfielder Yoenis Cespedes with his transition from Cuba to the major leagues.But even Ramirez's former teammate seemed as unconcerned as Gomes about the slugger's time frame."I think we go about our game as we would," Crisp said. "Me personally I don't lose any sleep or wonder. The only time I think about it is when it's brought up to me. But with that said, knowing from spring training that he was going to be here around a certain time, we already had a kind of idea."So for now, Ramirez will remain with Sacramento, and the A's will continue their efforts to claw their way closer to .500. Despite the doubts that surround Ramirez's career, if and when he makes his debut, he'll be the team's newest hope. There's no way to predict what we'll happen, but Gomes is right: it will no doubt be interesting."I don't know what kind of Manny will play out in Oakland," Gomes said. "But we'll see how it all pans out."Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
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