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Double feature on tap

Dice-K, Ramírez are ready to roll

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- He won't be upstaging Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is scheduled to make his first spring start tonight against Boston College, but Manny Ramírez's spring debut is scheduled to come this afternoon, in an exhibition against the Blue Jays.

"You know what, I was sitting there doing the lineups yesterday getting dizzy, and I had a question mark by his name," manager Terry Francona said. "We had a home game the next day. Rather than guess, I walked out and said, 'Hey, [Manny], Friday?' He said, 'Yeah, I'm fine.' I just didn't want to get him out there before he's ready. Even if it's one at-bat, [but] I would imagine he'd get a couple."

Francona tried to downplay the significance of Matsuzaka's start, saying what he'll be watching for most is how Matsuzaka and catcher Jason Varitek communicate.

"We want to get to the point where we don't let that get in the way of us winning a game," Francona said.

Matsuzaka already seems to be grasping the language perhaps more than he lets on.

"I think he gets it," Francona said. "By 'it,' it's not the language, but he understands what's going on here, and he's a pretty smart kid."

Josh Beckett, who whiffed five in two innings in an 11-0 win over Northeastern yesterday, said like most of his teammates, he won't be there to witness Matsuzaka. With the team also playing Toronto this afternoon, much of the team will have worked out in the morning and left by the time Matsuzaka pitches.

"You watch him play catch and it's almost like the same thing as when I played catch last year with [Jonathan] Papelbon, and you notice that he's just got that little something different about the ball that comes out of his hand," Beckett said. "Daisuke's got that also. He's got unbelievable backspin. That's going to help him be effective up in the zone and down in the zone as well."

Big start for Snyder
Kyle Snyder, who starts this afternoon against Toronto, has a good deal on the line. Snyder is out of options, meaning the Sox will have to place him on waivers before they can send him to the minors.

He pitched well enough last season to suggest there would be clubs that would claim him. Depending on the interest in Snyder, the Sox could try to trade him if he doesn't win a spot on the roster. The other four players on the roster who are out of options -- Curt Schilling, Alex Cora, Doug Mirabelli, and Wily Mo Peña -- are all locks to make the 25-man roster.

Curve from Beckett
Beckett said he has made a concerted effort to throw his curveball. "Last year I was geared to come in, yada, yada, locate the fastball," he said. "I came in this year, I've been throwing curveballs for over a month."

Beckett acknowledged he's at a different point in his career.

"Certainly, I think this year is the start of a new chapter," he said. "I thought last year was a new chapter, too. I'm kind of settling in here, Tito and the team expect this from me, to help lead some of the younger guys through the part of their careers that I just went through.

"We have veteran leadership, but it's more of a middle guy role they want me to step into, with Papelbon, Daisuke, help them make that transition. I think one thing I'm going to try to relay to them is that being a starter in the major leagues is very difficult, unless you get in a routine and stick with that routine."

White hot
Minor leaguer Scott White, who projects to play in the Single A Cal League, drove in six runs with two home runs, including a grand slam, against Northeastern . . . J.D. Drew struck out and walked in his first two at-bats with the Sox . . . A Sox team of mostly irregulars lost, 4-1, in Dunedin to the Blue Jays. The Sox had just four hits, including two singles by Peña and a double by Eric Hinske. Third baseman Chad Spann, who had the other hit, made two errors, giving him four in two games. "Shoot, this is Game 7 of the World Series to him," Francona said. "He's ready to cut his throat. But next year, he'll be Murph." That would be outfielder David Murphy, who struggled in camp last spring. "He's growing up right in front of our eyes," Francona said. "He's obviously stronger, but his demeanor is different." . . . Non-roster pitcher Adam Bernero underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery yesterday in Birmingham, Ala. Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure.

On leave
Abe Alvarez remains away on a family matter, and Matt Clement also went home for a couple of days because of a death in his family . . . Schilling passed out T-shirts to teammates and members of the Japanese media promoting his new video game company, the newly renamed The shirts were in Japanese. "Schill told me every time I wore it on TV, he'd give me $100," Francona said. "That ain't going to happen." . . . Dice-K signed a ball for Johnny Pesky. Is JP going to eBay with it? "That's going straight to the Pesky household," he said. "I'm giving it to my son. He asked me, 'Dad, have you gotten the big man yet?' " . . . Francona praised Bryan Corey for throwing a "middle of the season" changeup. "He knows what he's up to," Francona said. "He's ready to go." . . . New first base coach Luis Alicea is working with Julio Lugo on his footwork, trying to get him to develop consistency when he throws.