Little denies punishing Red Sox slugger

Updated: September 2, 2003, 11:02 PM ET
Associated Press

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.''


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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