Ailing Ramírez will be taking a back seat
NEW YORK -- Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramírez, who did not play last night and probably won't be in the lineup this afternoon for the conclusion of this three-game series with the Yankees, has had back problems off and on for six weeks, according to manager Terry Francona.
"He's done an admirable job of playing through it," Francona said of Ramírez, who came out of Monday's 5-3 loss in the seventh inning, one inning after he was charged with an error for failing to pick up Jorge Posada's single. "I don't want people taking unfair shots at him."
Red Sox internist Lawrence Ronan examined Ramírez yesterday, and the team later announced Ramírez had a strained left oblique (side) muscle, which he aggravated with a swing during his last at-bat Monday. "He's still pretty sore," Francona said.
Eric Hinske played left field in Ramírez's absence and batted ninth. Mike Lowell hit in Ramírez's cleanup spot.
Ramirez hit his 20th home run Tuesday in his first at-bat, struck out in his second, then grounded a single to center in the sixth, jogging slowly to first after wincing in pain.
Ramírez is listed as day to day. He was hitting .479 (45 for 94) with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in 27 games against the Yankees since the start of the 2006 season. Ramírez has more multihomer games against the Yankees than any other player ever with seven, one more than Carl Yastrzemski and Ken Griffey Jr., according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Ramírez has played in 127 of 133 games, most on the team. He is batting .309 with 9 home runs and 41 RBIs since the All-Star break, but in the last month, he is batting just .253 with 2 home runs and 18 RBIs in 95 at-bats. His home run Tuesday was his first in 71 at-bats.
Meanwhile, X-rays on Bobby Kielty's back were negative and Francona said the outfielder could play in a pinch last night and likely will be available today.
"There was no structural damage," said Francona. "It was all soft tissue."
Kielty has been on anti-inflammatory medication since running into the bullpen fence in his first game with the Red Sox Aug. 19.
The Sox continue to await the first draft of the 2008 schedule before making a decision on whether they will agree to go. The schedule has been held up, Orza said, for technical reasons.
"Very simply," Orza said, "there is a new computer program that they're having difficulty running properly, mainly a quirk of its newness. It's a technical matter. It's no one's fault. It's a new complicated computer program, which is why we gave [Major League Baseball] another extension. I expect we'll have one by the end of the month."
The Sox do not want to go to Japan to open the season unless they then have the traditional opener on the West Coast, preferably in Seattle or Oakland, Calif. The baseball operations side of the team, from the general manager to the manager to the players, has very little enthusiasm for a trip to Japan. MLB, however, is putting considerable pressure on the team to go because of the marketing benefits of having Daisuke Matsuzaka and to a lesser extent Hideki Okajima on the roster. And Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, a member of MLB's international committee, has long been a proponent of playing games overseas.
Part of the negotiations may involve additional compensation from the Japanese commercial sponsors of the tour to the players on both teams. There are indications the Sox may be seeking $60,000 per player, which would undoubtedly go a long way toward breaking down player resistance. The Devil Rays and Yankees were compensated when they opened the 2003 season in Japan.
The Athletics have been mentioned as the likely opponent for the Sox if they go to Japan. If form holds, the Sox and Athletics would play two games in Japan, although there have been indications that the Yomiuri Giants and Chiba Lotte Marines, the team with which Boston has just entered a working agreement, would like to play exhibitions against the Sox.
"It may not be as chaotic as the metaphor suggests," Orza said, "but the schedule is like a house of cards. You move the queen of diamonds, you move the entire deck. The Red Sox have a right to be concerned about the schedule. We have a right to be concerned. Going to Japan is not a foregone conclusion."
Gordon Edes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; material from the Associated Press was used in this report.