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Ramírez ailing at plate

Ear woes won't stop this All-Star

DETROIT -- Manny Ramírez was not in the starting lineup yesterday, which immediately led to speculation that the left fielder was once again preparing to pull a ripcord on a scheduled All-Star appearance. It didn't help that manager Terry Francona, because of an organizational sensitivity to medical privacy issues, was vague before the game about what ailed the 35-year-old, attributing his absence to "intestinal turmoil, call it whatever you want."

But Ramírez, who pinch hit in the eighth and took a called third strike, required a doctor's attention yesterday morning. He was examined for what one club source described as inflammation in his inner ear. The condition also apparently bothered Ramírez Saturday, when he was hitless in four at-bats, grounding into two double plays, and left six runners on base.

Yesterday, he was given antibiotics. When asked if Ramírez was still planning to fly last night to San Francisco for the All-Star Game, Francona said yes. It was here, in 2003, that Ramírez did not show up for the final game before the break, awakening then-manager Grady Little at 5:45 a.m. to tell him his mother was ill. "We just assumed he was starting his break early," Johnny Damon said at the time.

Could he have started yesterday? With Kevin Youkilis out another day with a strained right quadriceps, the Sox could have used him, though Tigers manager Jim Leyland sat three All-Stars: batting leader Magglio Ordonez (sore heel), Placido Polanco (sore back), and Ivan Rodriguez (day game after night game).

Leyland three times intentionally walked David Ortiz to face Ramírez in Saturday's 3-2, 13-inning Sox loss. And while the Tigers manager said, "You're probably not going to do that ever again and get away with it," it still was a pretty bold indicator that Ramírez is not striking the same level of fear in the opposition as he has.

Since May 22, when Ramírez hit a three-run home run off Mike Mussina in the first inning at Yankee Stadium, he has just 17 RBIs in 40 games and multiple-RBI games just twice, a stunning number for a player who last season had 29 multi-RBI games.

This season, he has 10 multi-RBI games, just three with three or more.

In his last 14 games coming into the break, Ramírez is batting just .174 (8 for 46), with no home runs and four RBIs, dropping his overall average from .304 to .284.

"He's missed some pitches he normally hits, just one of those things hitters normally go through," Francona said.

Ramírez's struggles mirror the general malaise of the heart of the Sox' batting order. Since J.D. Drew's two-homer, seven-RBI game in Arizona, which the Sox hoped would be a breakout game, Drew is batting .306 (26 for 85) but had just nine RBIs in 25 games.

Even Ortiz has knocked in just 15 runs in his last 38 games, dating to May 21.

Grand accomplishment
Julio Lugo played in the 1,000th game of his major league career. Lugo, who started at short, began the day batting .189, but he had his second multiple-hit game in the last five days and hit his first home run since June 8 in Arizona, when he led off the game with a homer off Doug Davis. Lugo's three hits yesterday improved his average to .197, but he remains the only major leaguer with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title to be hitting under the Mendoza line. In the last 31 days, Lugo is batting .137 (10 for 73), the second-lowest average of any player in the big leagues with at least 30 at-bats in that span. The lowest was Jason Bay of Pittsburgh at .134 (13 for 97). Yet, Lugo has 40 RBIs, the fifth-highest total on the team, only four behind Ramírez. In the last 20 years, only eight players have hit below .200 while knocking in 40 or more runs.

Helping hands
Assistant trainer Mike Reinold, whom the Sox want on hand to work with pitchers Josh Beckett and Hideki Okajima, flew with the Sox' All-Star contingent last night, but there was some uncertainty whether he would be permitted in the clubhouse or have to work out of an adjacent room . . . Youkilis missed the last five games and six of the last eight before the break because of his injury, but the Sox remain hopeful he'll be back when play resumes . . . Brendan Donnelly is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday, then expects to make a rehab assignment Friday.

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

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