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Ortiz ready for WBC, unsure of Manny's whereabouts

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- David Ortiz arrived at camp Sunday
wearing a black T-shirt that read "Manny being Manny" but unsure
of the whereabouts of his peculiar partner in the middle of the Red
Sox lineup.

Perhaps the enigmatic Manny Ramirez tuned to the Olympics one
night on television and decided to travel to Torino.

"I talked to Manny like a week ago and he was going to Italy
tomorrow," Ortiz said.

He must have been joking, Ortiz decided, since Ramirez is due in
camp for Boston's first full-squad workout on Thursday. That
wouldn't give him much time to watch curling before heading to the
clubhouse.

If he shows up.

Ramirez has asked to be traded and said he might hold out of
spring training if he isn't dealt. A subsequent report said he
wanted to stay, but his agent denied that. It was just another
confusing development in the life of a player who asks to be traded
almost every season then puts up his usual impressive power
numbers.

"He seems happy," Ortiz said. "I read in the news that he
wants to stay in Boston. Something like that, right? That's good.
Sounds good to me. Having my man around once again. Hopefully,
things never change."

Then, asked if he expects Manny to be in Boston's lineup on
Opening Day, Ortiz said, "He might. That's a good question."

Three months ago, Ortiz said in a news conference in the
Dominican Republic that Ramirez is not returning to Boston.

The Red Sox have talked with other teams about trading Ramirez,
who had 45 homers and 144 RBI last year when they failed to repeat
as World Series champions, but haven't found a satisfactory deal.

On Sunday, general manager Theo Epstein wouldn't comment on
whether the left fielder will report Thursday, but several cartons
of mail were stacked by Ramirez's locker.


As for Ortiz, his travel itinerary is set: spring training now, World Baseball Classic in March.

He will be with new teammates in two weeks when he plays for
the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Many elite
players had the option of missing major-league exhibition games to
compete for their country and Ortiz jumped at the chance.

"I want to play. I got the opportunity to represent my country
and you don't get to see that," he said. "There's players that
play forever and they never get the opportunity because that
[tournament] was never going on before."

Ortiz didn't criticize Alex Rodriguez for choosing to play for the
United States rather than the Dominican Republic, and said
Rodriguez was "a professional and a very smart guy."

Last season, Ortiz hit .300 with 47 homers and 148 RBI. Nineteen
of those homers tied games or put Boston ahead, but he was edged for the MVP award by Rodriguez.

The sting didn't linger.

"The most important thing is to know you did what it takes to
help your ballclub," Ortiz said. "If ever it comes, it comes. If
it doesn't, hang with it."

Ortiz did express concern about the timing of the global baseball
competition.

"I think it would be a better idea if they do that during the
[All-Star] break, something like that," he said. "There's a lot
of players that take time to get ready, especially pitchers."

As if Ortiz needed extra incentive to stay healthy and keep
slugging, he is nearing the end of his contract. The club has an
option for 2007.

But he apparently isn't worrying about working out his next
deal.

"I'm not involved with it. I don't know what's going on. I'm
just thinking about the season coming up right now." he said.
"Hopefully, I stay here for the rest of my career. I like it
here."

Things will be different for Ortiz in Boston, though.

When he returns to the Red Sox after the World Baseball Classic, he will be without two gregarious, fun-loving pals
who left as free agents. Center fielder Johnny Damon went to the
New York Yankees and first baseman Kevin Millar signed with the
Baltimore Orioles.

Millar helped Ramirez relax and feel more comfortable with the
media.

"I've talked to Millar a lot," Ortiz said. "Millar is the
kind of guy that, as long as he was here, he kept this ballclub
going one way or the other.

"Millar was an outstanding teammate and, hopefully, I get the
opportunity to play with him again."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.