Little denies punishing Red Sox slugger

CHICAGO -- Manny Ramirez was not in the starting lineup for
Tuesday night's 2-1 win against the Chicago White Sox even though he
was healthy enough to play.

Manager Grady Little denied he was punishing his slugger for
going out when he was supposed to be sick in bed.

"He is available to DH today, but my decision to wait is: I
like the way our club has responded the last few days,'' Little
told reporters before the game. "I'm putting the team out there
that I feel gives us the best chance to win.''

Asked if Ramirez was being disciplined, Little said: "No, I'm
trying to win the game.''

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein supported
Little's decision.

"Grady's going with a lineup that gives us the best chance to
win as a team, and tonight, that does not include Manny, despite
his availability to DH," Epstein said in a statement. "Manny's a big part of this ballclub, and we all look forward
to getting him back on the field very soon and watching him help
this team win some important ballgames."

Ramirez called in sick for Friday night's game against the New
York Yankees and was said to have pharyngitis -- the same ailment
that forced pitcher Pedro Martinez to miss a start the previous
week. On Saturday, Ramirez went to Fenway Park to see the team's
doctor, but he was sent back to bed.

On Saturday night, though, Ramirez was seen in the lobby of a
Boston hotel with Yankees infielder Enrique Wilson, a former
teammate of his from Cleveland. Wilson has confirmed that he was
with Ramirez, but said it was only for a few minutes.

On Sunday morning, Ramirez reportedly did not show up at the
ballpark to check in with the Red Sox doctors. The 30-year-old
outfielder, who is in the third year of an eight-year, $160 million
contract, traveled with the team to Philadelphia for the game there
on Monday but did not play.

The Red Sox came back to beat the Phillies 13-9 with two runs in
the eighth and six in the ninth.

Little said Ramirez, who is batting .317 with 31 homers and 90
RBI, would return to the lineup "if I think it will help us win
the game.''

"There are a lot of factors in my decision,'' Little said.
"All of them lead to putting the team on the field that can win
the game.''

He would not elaborate, but he did say that Ramirez's claim that
he was too weak to pinch hit on Monday was a factor.

Ramirez was in the clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field before the
game, chatting and listening to a CD player. Asked for Ramirez's
reaction to the news that he would be sitting out, Little said,
"He's part of a team in there. He knows we're just trying to win
the game.''

Ramirez's agent, Jeff Moorad, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino declined to comment, saying
only, "We support our manager.''