BOSTON (CBS) – When Manny Ramirez abruptly retired from baseball last Friday rather than serve a 100-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, it shocked the Tampa Bay Rays and left them without a power bat in the middle of their lineup.

For teammate Johnny Damon, it was a hard pill to swallow.

“It’s a very sad thing that happened with Manny. I wish him nothing but the best,” Damon told reporters before the Rays opened a three-game series with the Red Sox Monday evening. “He was a great teammate of mine, a great player. I was just hoping we would continue to have all the fun we had when we had the press conference. For it to end so abruptly and for the reasoning, it’s sad.”

Read: Damon: Red Sox Are Team To Beat

“It’s an unfortunate thing that happened,” Damon added. “What we saw in Manny in spring training, he looked really good. I was expecting him to hit 25 homers, drive in 100-plus and be a big cog for our team. For it to end so quickly this way, it’s sad.”

Read: Red Sox-Rays Pitching Matchups

“We definitely counted on him during the course of spring training,” Damon said. “But our team is strong. We’ve got each others backs and we look forward to the challenge. We know it’s going to be a tougher road as you can see how we’re looking so far early in the season. But we’re going to do it. We’re going to work hard and stick together as a team.”


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