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Delayed reaction

Sox give Ramírez another week to report to camp

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Manny Ramírez, who through an agent in October threatened to boycott spring training if he were not traded, will not arrive at spring training today, the team's reporting date for position players. Instead, according to a joint statement issued yesterday by player and team, the slugger will join the Sox March 1 ''prepared to have an exceptional season."

However, Ramírez is expected to forgo playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, which would have taken him out of Sox camp March 3-20. Ramirez, if he adheres to this plan, stands to spend 11 more days with the Sox before the regular season opens than he would have had he reported today and played in the Classic.

Ramírez, who is working out in Miami and lives in Fort Lauderdale, won't officially be late to camp because Feb. 28 is the mandatory reporting date negotiated by the union. A player must merely check in by phone that day and show up in person March 1 to be on time.

In fact, clubs are not allowed to discipline a player for failing to report until March 1. The Sox have no established team policy in place for failure to report, and under general manager Theo Epstein, they have not had to discipline any player for that.

Ramírez is on the Dominican Republic's provisional roster, but the team has yet to submit its official 30-man roster, which is due March 2. Epstein and manager Terry Francona referred all questions pertaining to Ramírez's participation in the WBC to Major League Baseball. Epstein, however, came close to confirming that Ramírez will opt out of the event when he said the schedule the club and Ramírez have agreed to ''will give us a month to get ready as a team."

Still, the status of his trade request remains unclear. Francona, whom Ramírez phoned Monday night to discuss his reporting date, didn't ask about his cleanup hitter's wish to be dealt. Epstein said the issue ''remains between Manny and the club."

Efforts to reach Ramírez's agent, Greg Genske, were unsuccessful.

Even David Ortiz, Ramirez's Dominican pal, has not spoken with him in weeks.

''I have no idea what's going on with him," Ortiz said. ''He doesn't pick up the phone. I've got more chances to reach you than him, and I don't have your phone number."

Francona wouldn't relay anything specific that was said between manager and player Monday night.

''Manny was very honest, very forthright, very amicable," the skipper said. ''He assured me he is going to come ready to play, and I assumed that was for us."

Epstein, asked the reasons behind Ramírez's tardiness, said only, ''Some of them are personal, some are family-related."

Curt Schilling contended that Ramírez was not receiving preferential treatment, saying, ''It happens all the time. Guys all over the big leagues show up at different times. And I don't give two [expletives] when Manny shows up. He'll be ready to play.

''When do we open, April 3? He'll be there April and he'll hit two homers. Manny is one of those guys who even if he didn't show up for spring training I'd still know he'd be ready for the season when the season started."

For now, the club is on board with Ramírez's intentions, evidenced in Francona's and Epstein's verbalized support as well as a two-paragraph, 52-word statement distributed yesterday.

The release read: ''The Boston Red Sox and Manny Ramirez today issued the following joint statement. 'With the permission of the Boston Red Sox, Manny Ramirez will report to spring training in Fort Myers on March 1, 2006. Manny is in Florida completing an extensive training regimen and is prepared to have an exceptional season.' "

Francona added, ''In a perfect world, every player shows up [today]. He's our player, and I want to get the most out of him. Sometimes you make adjustments along the way and want to understand people's thinking. You try to get to the same goals together. That's what we're trying to do.

''I'm telling you, this is not coachspeak, or managerspeak, I had a very good conversation with Manny. It actually made me feel very good with where we're going. That's why I am OK with this.

''It's going to work out for us, and by doing it this way, it's going to work out better."

Epstein said he was ''not tremendously" surprised by Ramírez's decision. Added Francona, ''I knew all along there was a chance this would happen."

Ramírez's teammates, however, did not. Jason Varitek, upon being handed the statement, read and reread it.

''We're not going to play the game of, 'Is it fair to anyone else?' " Varitek said.

Asked whether Ramírez, who has averaged .318-41-130 over the last eight seasons, was receiving preferential treatment, the captain said, ''I'm sure there are other issues. We just have to make sure when he's here that he competes and continues to be the guy he was before.

''Manny is not a disruption in the clubhouse. Manny's a good teammate. He's gotten better as a player, in my opinion, in the time that he's been here, all around, be it running out balls or being a little better baserunner or becoming a better outfielder."

Varitek said he wouldn't discuss whether the situation was fair to Ramírez' teammates.

''I have a thousand other things I have to do to prepare myself," he said. ''I need to be here for my pitchers and my teammates. He has different responsibilities. He has to play outfield and drive in runs. He knows what he needs to do."

Asked about the recurring perception that Ramírez is not a team player, Varitek said, ''That is an issue Manny will have to deal with, how people will react to what he does. But people have to understand, he's not a disruption inside of our clubhouse."

Trot Nixon, apprised of Ramírez's situation, said, ''I'm not going to read into it, because I know he's going to be ready Opening Day."

It's possible that the Sox again work to deal Ramírez, who, according to teammates and ex-teammates, wants to play for the Angels above all other teams.

''Oh my God, he wants to come here," Orlando Cabrera said yesterday, speaking to a reporter with the Los Angeles Times. ''He was the one who called me [during the winter]. He asked me in particular about you guys [the media]. A lot of what he said was about a lack of privacy. He was bothered by the media all the time."

And what did Cabrera tell Ramírez about Anaheim?

''I told him it's a normal city," Cabrera said. ''When you try to compare the media in any city to the media in Boston, nothing is the same. It's crazy over there. The only thing close to it is New York."

Now, the wait is on.

''Manny's going to show up and drive in 130," said Francona, looking at a columnist who'd posed a question. ''I'll bet you on it."

The columnist responded, ''I won't take the bet."

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