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No part-time benefits for him

Mientkiewicz's year full of frustration

The best Doug Mientkiewicz can say about his summer is that his Miami home has been spared hurricane damage -- so far.

Don't get him wrong; he's glad to be wearing a Sox uniform, with a chance to win some jewelry in October. But considering his trade from Minnesota, his struggles at the plate (a .244 average, .233 with the Sox, after hitting .300 last season), and his transition to being a part-time player, there is a forgettable aspect to the whole thing.

"That's why I feel there's got to be something good coming in the not-too-distant future with this group that will make it all worthwhile," Mientkiewicz said yesterday. "But this is also one of those years you want to flush down the toilet and start all over again."

The latest setback for the first baseman is a bout of the flu that struck him last Thursday night in Seattle and forced him out of a scheduled start Sunday. He was able to follow a full pregame routine yesterday and hopes to be well enough to play tonight.

"That was the first time I've ever taken myself out of the lineup for a sickness or an injury," Mientkiewicz said. "I've played through food poisoning, broken fingers, a torn labrum. My wrist was so bad last summer I couldn't drive lefthanded, but I played. People hear the word `sick,' and they think, `Hey, I've worked sick all the time,' but when your body shuts down on you, it shuts down on you. I went through eight shirts the other day."

Since his trade from the Twins July 31, Mientkiewicz has started just 17 of the 42 games the Sox have played.

"I can help this team, but it's kind of hard to help it like this," he said. "I expected to play a little more than I have been, but we're playing well as a team, and sometimes as much as you want to play personally, sometimes you have to let that go. But I felt I was brought here for a purpose, and it's kind of hard to serve that purpose when you don't play.

"But the bottom line is winning games. The one thing I took away from the Olympics was that it doesn't matter if you hit .400 or you hit .200, what people remember is that you won the gold medal. It's the same thing with the World Series. Nobody will remember I hit .245 if we win the World Series."

Still, it's tough for Mientkiewicz, who hit .300 twice in the last three seasons, to be viewed primarily as a defensive replacement. Contractually, he is signed through next season for $3.75 million, but between having to share time in Minnesota with rookie Justin Morneau and becoming a bench player here, he has no chance of vesting the $3.75 million option he has for 2006, which was based on plate appearances this season and next.

"I haven't swung the bat well since I've been with the Red Sox," Mientkiewicz said. "These fans haven't seen me yet. But I have a tendency to try to do too much as it is, even more so when I'm not out there too much. You want to prove yourself to everybody in here you can play, and that's tough to do.

"You don't want to be portrayed as someone who is worrying about next season. You start talking about that stuff, you start losing focus. But we'll sit down sometime this winter, and I'll ask them what their plans are. You're talking to a guy who wanted to play in one city his entire career. Obviously, that's not going to happen, but I don't want to bounce from team to team, either. I'd like to stay here a long time."

Trouble city
A day after the incident in Oakland in which Texas reliever Frank Francisco tossed a chair into the stands, Sox reliever Alan Embree was asked which bullpen was the toughest for a visiting player.

"For a visitor, the worst is Boston," he said. "I remember a playoffs against Boston [1995, with the Indians], it scared me to death. I was young and freaked out. I was intimidated. I felt it definitely gave the Red Sox an advantage. It just didn't stop. Barrage after barrage." When the Sox were in Oakland last week, Embree said he noticed just a couple of security guards in the bullpen area.

"They wouldn't have been able to contain it, if something had happened," he said. "You have some incidents everywhere. It could happen 100 times a game if you let it. I've known players who wanted to jump in the stands before. There have been times I felt like doing it. You just don't."

No trading places
Manager Terry Francona said he had no plans to jigger his pitching rotation in advance of the Yankee series, i.e. flip-flop Curt Schilling and Bronson Arroyo so Schilling could open the series Friday in the Bronx. "We did this a long time ago," Francona said. "We lined it up the way we wanted to line it up. We looked at the whole last part of the year. We're comfortable doing what we're doing. The five starters, I just think the way they fall, we think it's the right way to do it. You play around too much, you're asking for trouble. We have confidence in all of them, and I think they know that. For the most part, we've been rewarded with sticking with these guys, and we'll continue to do that." . . . CEO Larry Lucchino said the Sox have some Hurricane Ivan-related concerns this weekend for New York, "But that situation changes from day to day." Said general manager Theo Epstein, "We'll be getting on the train regardless." . . . The Fenway outfield showed some worn patches from the weekend's Jimmy Buffett concerts but seemed essentially unscathed. "It's discolored more than anything," Francona said. "Johnny [Damon] is color-blind, anyway. It won't matter." . . . The maniacal one, Chuck Waseleski, noted that entering last night's game, the Sox had hit 98 home runs in 71 home games and 98 home runs in 71 road games. (Trot Nixon hit one last night). The last season the Sox hit more home runs at Fenway Park than on the road was 1996 . . . The Sox have placed all remaining regular-season tickets on sale, which includes scattered singles, standing room, obstructed view, and other tickets that have been returned. Chief operating officer Mike Dee said there are approximately 5,000 seats left. When those tickets are sold, the Sox will have sold out the entire season for the first time in franchise history. Only three other teams -- Indians (1996-2000), Rockies (1996), and Giants (2000) -- have done that . . . Tonight's Devil Rays starter, Dewon Brazelton, is 0-11 on the road. Of 235 active pitchers with at least 12 career road starts, he's the only one without a win. Against the Sox Aug. 11, he gave up eight runs in 1 2/3 innings. Brazelton faces Tim Wakefield, who is 10-1 lifetime with three saves vs. the D-Rays, 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA this season. 

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