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Like it or not, Manny reports to camp late, as expected

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Manny Ramirez showed up for work
Wednesday like other 9-to-5ers, an employee paid to do his job even
if he might prefer to move to another company -- or team.

There were some glaring differences, though.

The Boston Red Sox left fielder arrived at spring training with
his agents and others in a pair of luxury vehicles: one copper, one
silver. He sported dark orange dreadlocks and was on the baseball
field for only an hour. He showed up, with the team's approval, one
day after the mandatory reporting date.

The slugger declined several opportunities to say he's happy to
still be with the team after he asked to be traded following last
season.

"I'm here. I'm here," Ramirez said when asked if he's happy to
be with Boston.

He also said he wouldn't entertain questions about past trade
rumors or play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball
Classic this month.

"My main focus," he said, "is getting prepared for the season
to help Boston win. ... I'm not ready, so I'm not going to go out
there and make a fool of myself."

Ramirez isn't expected to play in Thursday night's exhibition
opener against Minnesota, but manager Terry Francona didn't expect
him to be out of the lineup for long.

Ramirez's agent, Greg Genske, made it clear his client might not
exercise his 10-5 rights (10 years in the majors and five with the
same team) to refuse a trade.

"I wouldn't say that," Genske said when asked if Ramirez has
no intention of leaving the Red Sox. "I'd say he's kept an open
mind."

Ramirez, who reportedly wanted more privacy than he has in
Boston, said Wednesday he liked the attention.

"I get paid to play baseball and no [matter] where I go and
play, I've still got to go and perform even if I like it or not,"
he said.

That wasn't exactly embracing his current team.

"I'm fine. I'm fine," he said. "I guess a lot of people want
me to be back and that's why I'm here."

Ramirez is due to make $19 million in 2006, the sixth year of
his eight-year, $160 million contract.

After the 2003 season, the Red Sox placed him on waivers in an
effort to relieve themselves of his expensive contract but found no
takers and tried to trade him for Alex Rodriguez. Last season,
Ramirez took off the last two games before the trade deadline July
31 while the team explored possible deals.

During the offseason, the Red Sox talked with Baltimore and the
New York Mets, among others, about trades involving Ramirez.

"I think Manny knows that we have made a good faith effort to
meet his ... request," Jed Hoyer, co-general manager at the time,
said on Jan. 12. "We haven't found a deal that works for us."

Genske wouldn't say directly that Ramirez had asked to be
traded.

"I think it's been mischaracterized all along," he said. "Over the last few years it's a situation where the Red Sox have
wanted to pursue trade alternatives just to kind of see what's out
there, and Manny has always been willing to participate in those
kind of talks and he'd be willing to keep an open mind and
cooperate if the Red Sox decide that they want to have trade
discussions."

The team gave Ramirez permission to report on March 1, six days
after the first full-squad workout. Genske said Ramirez wasn't
fined for reporting after Feb. 28. Ramirez said he didn't want to
change his offseason training program by reporting for the first
workout.

"I worked so hard in the winter and I wanted to finish,"
Ramirez said during a 6-minute news conference before Wednesday's
workout with the team. "I'm in the best shape of my life."

Last season Ramirez hit .292 with 45 homers and 144 RBI. He led
the AL with a .349 batting average in 2002 and with 43 homers in
2004.

"I thought it was a long shot he'd be traded," Francona said.
"Regardless of what he says, when he gets in that batter's box,
he's a force. ... He seemed happy to be out there again."

Players seemed tired of answering questions about Ramirez.

The usually amiable David Ortiz said he wouldn't answer any
Wednesday.

Right fielder Trot Nixon, who talked with Ramirez in the
outfield during drills, told reporters: "You guys are fishing for
some serious information, aren't you? He's fine. He didn't make any
errors in the outfield when he took his groundballs. He's glad to
be back."

Nixon said he saw no change in Ramirez's behavior. Other
teammates joked about his hairdo.

"He's been hanging around with Ricky Williams too much,"
pitcher David Wells joked.

Ramirez arrived in a No. 81 black-and-silver throwback jersey of
former Oakland Raiders receiver Tim Brown at 9:01 a.m., one minute
after the clubhouse was closed to reporters. One of the first
players he greeted was non-roster infielder Enrique Wilson, his
close friend.

Fans chanted Ramirez's first name when he left the clubhouse. He
signed autographs on his way back.

But he refused to look far into the future and say he wanted to
finish out his contract in Boston.

"I got a beautiful career going on and I'm not going to let
little things like this mess [up] all the things that I
accomplished," Ramirez said, "because I think when I finish my
career I'm going to be a special player."