March 19, 2004

"I'm trying to make this team, there's only one spot left. New manager, I've got to surprise him." Nick Cafardo and Michael Silverman both have excellent features on Manny Ramirez.

Silverman said Ramirez was "relaxed and somewhat goofy ... offering a humorous, self-deprecating look at his mindset and, especially, his quiet bat. 'I need help, man. I ain't trying to help nobody, I need help myself. ... This is the year, man." Ramirez also described how he felt when he awoke October 17: "We got so close last year, I couldn't believe it. The next day, I wake up, I think it's a dream, I couldn't believe it."

Cafardo writes: "When managers, teammates, fans, and media members say, 'It's Manny being Manny,' well, that's the point. That's what fans should want. You want Manny Ramirez blistering the baseball to all fields ... He has been especially funny in the clubhouse recently, creating a loose atmosphere for his teammates. ... The other day he was walking around in cowboy boots telling everyone how comfortable he felt in them. On Tuesday night, he was spotted getting on a bus bound for Sarasota wearing his white home pants. Clubhouse manager Joe Cochran was right behind him with the grays." Ramirez said he would likely start taking flyballs in right field next week.

Nomar Garciaparra underwent an MRI in Florida on his bruised right heel; it was negative. Terry Francona called it "precautionary." The Herald says Nomar might need to rest another week or so, which would bring him back on March 25 -- 10 days before Opening Day. ... Trot Nixon flew to Los Angeles for a second opinion on his back. Francona: "Swinging the bat [on Tuesday] didn't bother him at all, which is good. But that knot hasn't gone away." One report stated that Nixon may need anywhere from 2-4 weeks of additional rest, which means he might not return until the middle of April or the beginning of May.

"In baseball's latest public-relations battle between management and the union, two of Commissioner Bud Selig's top assistants appeared on a conference call Thursday to vent over comments from players regarding the much- maligned drug-testing policy. ... [Rob Manfred, executive vice president of labor relations] began the conference call with a six-part rebuttal to comments made by Red Sox teammates Curt Schilling and Johnny Damon in the Hartford Courant."

Also: Byung-Hyun Kim began an upper body strengthening program. ... Tony Womack will start the season in extended spring training. ... The Red Sox claimed LHP Frank Brooks off waivers from Oakland and sent Rule 5 RHP Colter Bean back to the Yankees. ... Cesar Crespo went 2-3 and is hitting .462 (12-for-26). ... Pedro Martinez is expected to throw 60-65 pitches against the Pirates this afternoon.

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