St. Louis hitting coach Mark McGwire is having fun again.  (Associated Press)
St. Louis hitting coach Mark McGwire is having fun again. (Associated Press)

McGwire enjoys return

In the dugout hubbub after David Freese’s third home run in four games, the rookie saved a special celebratory forearm shiver for the St. Louis Cardinals’ new hitting coach.

For Mark McGwire, it’s moments like this that have made his closely watched return to baseball worthwhile.

“To be quite honest I didn’t know what to expect because I’ve never really been in this situation,” McGwire said in an interview. “It’s been very, very enjoyable.”

It’s tough to call the rehabilitation of McGwire’s public image anything but a success. Earlier this week, the Cardinals traveled to their fifth National League city and, for the fifth time, there was no discernible public backlash for what was viewed during the winter as a controversial hire. No jeering fans, no “Cheaters Go Home!” banners, nothing.

At least, nothing negative.

“Yeah, I’d hire him,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “Because of things I’ve seen him do, and I know how much he likes the game and how much he’d put into it, too.”

It’s this kind of feedback that’s allowed McGwire to settle into a comfortable, behind-the-scenes role with his old team.

“So far, so good,” McGwire said. “I think people have really moved on from the subject. People are tired of hearing about it.”

The subject, of course, is steroids. Last winter, McGwire ended years of denials and a self-imposed exile by admitting that he had used steroids and human growth hormone on and off for a decade, starting before the 1990 season and including when he broke Roger Maris’ single-season home run record in 1998.

Manager Tony La Russa said it doesn’t hurt that McGwire takes plenty of time to sign autographs.

“I don’t want to challenge the Philadelphia fans, but the reaction has been great,” La Russa said. “I’m sure he’ll get some hoots here or there or other places. Maybe here. But it’s not like he’s out there playing.”

Ramirez off DL

The Los Angeles Dodgers activated Manny Ramirez from the 15-day disabled list after he missed 14 games because of a right calf strain.

The Dodgers were 6-8 while Ramirez was out.

Ramirez, who turns 38 on May 30, is hitting .415 with two homers, 12 RBIs.


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