SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Across town at Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers have an open locker that might as well have Manny Ramirez's name on it. He's a constant presence in their camp, even though he's not actually here.
Over here at Scottsdale Stadium, home of the only other team with acknowledged interest in Ramirez, it's as if he barely exists. His name rarely comes up, and when it does, Giants officials do anything and everything to play down that interest.
General manager Brian Sabean says Ramirez is "back burner" for his team, and other Giants people suggest that unless negotiations break down with the Dodgers and Ramirez is willing to go to San Francisco for something like a one-year, $20 million deal, they're not getting him.
Remember, the Dodgers have already offered $25 million for one year.
The Giants don't seem inclined to beat that, and from all indications so far they haven't tried. The Giants don't seem overly concerned that Ramirez will sign with their division rival, presumably because they've expected that to happen and because they're not willing to outbid the Dodgers.
Could the Giants be bluffing? Sure, although as their other winter moves suggest, they're more a strike-fast team when they really want a player.
Why wouldn't the Giants, 29th in baseball in runs scored in 2008 and dead-last in home runs, jump at adding Ramirez? Good question, but Giants people insist that they don't want to tie their hands long-term, because they like their young players coming up. They also suggest that they'll have the financial flexibility to add a bat at midseason, and that they think some teams will have enough financial difficulty that a big bat could be available.
Without referring to Ramirez directly, Sabean also said that the Giants would prefer to add a bat at a corner infield spot, rather than in the outfield. The Giants have a starting outfield of Fred Lewis, Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn, and they're looking for ways to get at-bats for Nate Schierholtz. Meanwhile, they're committed to Pablo Sandoval at one corner infield spot. Right now he's the third baseman, but he could shift to first if a third baseman became available.
Oh, and by the way, there's no obvious Manny locker waiting in the Giants clubhouse.
Incidentally, Ramirez apparently never showed any interest in playing for the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic. Giants executive Felipe Alou, who will manage the Dominican team, said Ramirez's name never came up, and that Manny has had no contact with those who run the team.
Three years ago, Ramirez was on the provisional Dominican Republic roster for the first WBC, but he elected not to play. That year, when he was under contract to the Red Sox, Ramirez didn't report to spring training until March 1.