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Ramírez expected to start

GM: It's 'status quo' with outfielder's knee

Manny Ramírez hit 24 home runs in the first half of the season, part of the reason he was named an All-Star for the 10th time in his career.
Manny Ramírez hit 24 home runs in the first half of the season, part of the reason he was named an All-Star for the 10th time in his career. (AP Photo)

Manny Ramírez, the subject of talk-show banter, Internet chat sessions, national television programs, and opinionated broadcasters, is expected to start in left field tonight when the Red Sox begin a four-game series against the Oakland A's at Fenway Park.

Ramírez, who drew the ire of commissioner Bud Selig for skipping Tuesday night's All-Star Game to rest his sore right knee, is expected to resume his ``maintenance program" on the knee, according to general manager Theo Epstein, in the hopes Ramírez can get through the season without a major setback that would require him to miss significant playing time.

The Sox were continuing to say yesterday that Ramirez has a sore knee and nothing more, and both manager Terry Francona and Epstein called a published report by the Baseball Prospectus website, which said Ramírez has a tear in his meniscus, as ``erroneous."

One reason the report could be erroneous is because the Sox have not had an MRI taken on the knee, which provides the true indicator concerning possible damage. Yet there are two other ways of examining the knee without an MRI that could allow a doctor to deduce that Ramírez has a meniscus tear.

Either way, the Sox haven't felt the need to have an MRI given Ramírez's ample playing time and his ability to play 19 innings Sunday. Francona said he would have sent a pinch runner in for Ramírez from the ninth inning on in that game, but the need never arose.

``It's status quo," said Epstein of Ramírez's knee yesterday at Fenway Park, a few hours before performing at the Hot Stove, Cool Music fund-raiser. ``His knee was an issue in the first half that we were able to manage it by getting him out of games early. A big part of the treatment was getting him three days off at the All-Star break and now that he's had that we hope to be able to keep an eye on him."

In describing Ramírez's knee, Epstein said, ``It does swell up occasionally."

A source familiar with Ramírez's condition said he is routinely undergoing treatment for the knee, and his diligence has enabled him to play. He experiences soreness but not the kind that would prevent him from playing the field or running the bases. The source said Ramírez would likely be able to play on the knee for the remainder of the season, but there might be times when he needs to take a day off or two, or DH.

Ramírez has been sensitive to criticism in the past, but he's received quite a bit of support from Sox fans who will likely cheer Ramírez tonight when he steps to the plate for the first time since the controversy over his All-Star absence.

Short-range dedication
Epstein, who was hoping to raise approximately $350,000 for Foundation To Be Named Later, dedicated last night's show to ESPN analyst Peter Gammons, who remains in a Boston hospital recovering from a brain aneurysm. ``He's at the forefront of all of our minds," said Epstein. ``This event has really come together in his brief absence, to show support for Peter. A lot of his friends will be performing tonight and in the audience tonight, sending their love his way, it'll be a show of support for him and his family. His wife [Gloria] will be here as well." Epstein said Gammons's new album is ``excellent, but I'm a little biased because he generously donated the proceeds to the Foundation To Be Named Later. He's been extremely generous. He and I both joke about our musical ability but he's got some good original songs that he wrote and I was lucky enough to play guitar on one of the tracks." . . . The Sox are expected to activate Wily Mo Peña off the disabled list today. It also appears likely that Kyle Snyder will be called up from Pawtucket to start Monday against his former team, the Royals.

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