Ramirez returns to Red Sox lineup
Those gearing up for a showdown today between the Red Sox and volatile left fielder Manny Ramírez got little more than a whimper. Ramírez didn't sit out in protest, he didn't complain about right knee soreness, and he was not suspended. Instead, Ramírez was listed on the lineup card, which was posted later than normal, then strode to the plate in the first inning to a mixed reaction from the capacity crowd at Fenway Park.
On Friday, in the opening game of the series against the Yankees, Ramírez begged off playing, citing the knee soreness that had cropped up Wednesday, keeping him out of the lineup in Seattle. The Red Sox were not amused, with a highly placed source saying Ramírez was expected in the lineup today, or the team would consider it an act of defiance and suspend him.
And so there was Ramírez today, walking through the clubhouse before the game with his son, offering little to the media, except for the fact that he was playing.
"Don't worry about it," Ramírez said before any questions were asked. "I'm not going to talk. I'm going to play, that's it."
Asked about his status, he said, "Check the lineup. I'm in the lineup."
"This week, you know what, we had some misunderstandings," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "There's no way getting around that. It doesn't mean he's a bad person. We expect a lot; again when things don't go right, we try to make them right."
But that doesn't mean that the team's patience has not been wearing thin when it comes to the mercurial slugger. Ramírez, in fact, had apparently come to Francona Friday night and told the manager he could play today. That came on the heels of Ramírez's Friday MRIs (he had them on both knees) coming back clean. It is possible Ramírez's right knee was hurting early Friday but felt better by that evening.
"I don't think I'll ever change my stance when we're talking about disciplinary things," Francona said in response to a question about whether the club talked to Ramírez about possible punishment. "I'm not comfortable ever having that be public. I know this is a very public place, what we're doing, but I think my responsibility is to put our team and our ball club first. How we handle disciplinary issues has got to remain internal. That's just how I feel about it. That'll never change."
On Friday, while Francona was meeting with the media, Ramírez told bench coach Brad Mills he could not play. The news prompted Francona to remove Ramírez from the original lineup. But apparently things changed after the game and Ramírez was back in his customary cleanup spot today.
"Obviously we had some conversations last night," Francona said. "One thing leads to another, we just wanted to talk through some things and make sure we were all on the same page like we do with everybody."
That page, at least today, did lead to some production from Ramírez. The slugger grounded into a fielder's choice in the first inning, scoring Kevin Youkilis and giving Boston a 2-0 lead. It was Ramírez's 1,667th RBI, tying him for 23d on the all-time list with Sammy Sosa.
But despite Ramírez's consistent production, which will ultimately land him in the Hall of Fame, it's rarely easy when it concerns Ramírez. Though the season started out placid, with Ramírez engaging the media more frequently following an increased offseason training program, it turned in a hurry. First, Ramírez and Youkilis got into an altercation in the dugout June 5 during a game against the Rays. That was followed by Ramírez shoving the team's traveling secretary to the ground in a dispute over a ticket request in Houston.
Over the All-Star break, Ramírez expressed anger that the team hadn't addressed his contract status, despite the fact that there is no reason for the organization to take any action on Ramírez's option until the season is over.
And then there was the knee and the prospect of a standoff between the player and the team.
"We've run into bumps in the road ever since I've been here and there have been some before I've been here," Francona said. "The result of two of the times has been a World Series ring. As a team, sometimes you fight through things, sometimes you work through things. It's not always perfect, but how you get to the end is what counts and that's what we're trying to do.
"The idea is to get better, when you go through some times that maybe aren't perfect, how you come through, that is what is ultimately important. I'm hopeful that'll be the same way this time."
So, with Ramírez back in the lineup, does that mean the saga is over? At least for now?
"Yeah, it is, for me," Francona said. "I think as a manager, as a coach, when you feel like you've handled things appropriately or to the best of your ability, you try to move on and be better as a team. That's our goal. We always try to do that."
Gordon Edes of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.