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.
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.