Ramirez reports to Red Sox camp
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Manny Ramirez got lost on his way to calisthenics.
The unpredictable slugger reported to Boston Red Sox camp Monday either late or early, depending on who's timing him. And he walked into a crowd of fans by accident after taking a wrong turn as he headed off for stretching.
No problem for the happy-go-lucky hitter. He laughed and simply turned around, headed to the path he should have taken and joined his teammates on one of the practice fields.
"I don't know what to expect from Manny," third baseman Mike Lowell said. "I just know that he's getting ready, and, whichever way it is, that's fine with me."
Ramirez drove up in a large, gray sedan with tinted windows four days after the team staged its first full-squad workout but three days before the date the Red Sox gave him permission to arrive because his mother had a health problem.
"Manny reported early because he was ready to go. He's excited to be here in spring training," his agent, Greg Genske, said. "I do know that [Onelcida Ramirez] had very, very serious medical issues this offseason and that was the reason why Manny is reporting when he is."
But even David Ortiz, whose locker is next to Ramirez's, knew his close friend actually arrived late.
"It doesn't bother me," Ortiz said. "I think everybody [on the team] is cool. By April 1, he'll be doing his thing, guaranteed."
That would be hitting at least .300 with a minimum of 30 homers and 100 RBIs. Ramirez exceeded those homer and RBI totals in each of his six seasons with Boston and hit below .300 only once -- .292 in 2005.
Ramirez, who rarely talks with reporters, refused several requests to do that Monday after sitting down at his locker at 8:54 a.m.
Sporting a few dark red dreadlocks among his usual black ones, he hit in the batting cage before taking his roundabout journey to the field.
He stretched, caught fly balls, participated in running drills and took three batting practice pitches from Japanese star Daisuke Matsuzaka and 10 from non-roster invitee Travis Hughes.
When he lined a ball up the middle against Hughes, an adoring fan yelled, "Hey, midseason form, Manny."
If fans don't seem to dwell on his self-imposed reporting date, neither do his manager and teammates.
"Well, we've got everybody here now. That's good. I'm more concerned about the 120 RBIs," manager Terry Francona said. "I can hammer a guy. I can do whatever I want. I know what my job is.
"My job is to win games, not to point [out] every flaw in everybody's personality."
He said his players don't let such issues become distractions, but he didn't know if Ramirez would play in Wednesday night's exhibition opener against Minnesota.
Infielder Alex Cora said Ramirez "is in great shape. He works hard in the offseason and during the season."
The Red Sox have made allowances for stars in the past. Ace pitcher Pedro Martinez reported late to spring training several times, and Ramirez arrived on March 1 last year.
"I think we all would be very naive to think that if Manny wasn't the extraordinary hitter he was, that he'd get a little more leeway than the next guy," Lowell said. "I think if you reach a point that you cross a line of integrity with your teammates, it will be felt. Four days into spring training, I don't really see it as that big a deal."
Ramirez was cheerful and polite. He smiled, signed autographs and waved to fans -- although he did need some help with his equipment.
Reliever Julian Tavarez, one of Ramirez's close friends, yelled across the clubhouse to assistant equipment manager Edward "Pookie" Jackson.
"Pookie, Manny doesn't have running shoes and he doesn't have spikes either. Can you help him out?" Tavarez said, "and get him $10 so he can pay for his haircut."
Ramirez is scheduled to make $18 million this season, the next-to-last year of an eight-year, $160 million contract.
He asked to be traded after each of the last two seasons, but Genske said he's happy now.
"We haven't had conversations about trades or anything like that," with the team recently, Genske said.
Ramirez played only 11 games in the last six weeks last season as Boston was falling out of contention. The team said he had right knee tendinitis, but there was speculation he was healthy enough to play.
Genske said Ramirez is healthy now but, "I'm not going to talk about last season. If you have any questions directed toward spring training and Manny reporting, that's fine."
Genske also said he wasn't familiar with Ramirez's plans to attend a car show in Atlantic City, N.J., last Saturday. When general manager Theo Epstein learned of that last week, he called Genske, and Ramirez ended up not attending.
But on Monday, Ramirez was where he was supposed to be -- in a Red Sox uniform working out with his teammates. At least one of them was surprised to see him.
"I was outside when he was coming in. I was waiting like that," outfielder Wily Mo Pena said, crossing his arms in front of him and smiling. "'What are you doing here?'"
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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