Ortiz ready for WBC, unsure of Manny's whereabouts

Updated: February 19, 2006, 8:29 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

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.

That's a good question.
David Ortiz, on whether Manny Ramirez will be in Boston's lineup Opening Day

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.

I want to play. I got the opportunity to represent my country and you don't get to see that
Ortiz on playing in the World Baseball Classic

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.