Manny won't report till March 1
Red Sox reach agreement with left fielder on later arrival
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Hold off on that Manny Ramirez watch, which had been scheduled for Thursday, when the Red Sox conduct their first full-squad workout of Spring Training.
The Red Sox and Ramirez took a preventive measure to avoid a media circus later this week, announcing a compromise that stated the following:
"With the permission of the Boston Red Sox, Manny Ramirez will report to Spring Training in Fort Myers on March 1, 2006. Manny is in Florida completing an extensive training regimen and is prepared to have an exceptional season."
According to the basic agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Association, players aren't required to report to their club until Feb. 28.
There had been great uncertainty about when Ramirez would arrive, as it was well known that he had requested a trade following the 2005 season and that the Red Sox are having a hard time finding a deal that would make them a better team without one of the game's elite hitters.
But after Ramirez and manager Terry Francona spoke by telephone Monday night, the Red Sox came to an agreement with Ramirez.
"Manny called me last night, and we spoke about how I feel about things and how he feels about things," Francona said. "I've got to be honest with you, a lot of it is personal because it was a personal phone call. But we have had good communication between Manny and his agent and [general manager] Theo [Epstein] and me.
"I have to tell you, Manny was very honest, very forthright, very amicable. He assures us that he'll be here March 1, ready to go. I'm OK with that. I support him in this."
The question now is whether Ramirez will still play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. If that is the case, Ramirez would be with the Red Sox for just two days before reporting to Orlando to start training with the Dominican team.
Given that fact, logic seems to indicate that Ramirez might opt not to play in the Classic.
"I have to refer you to Major League Baseball on any questions about the World Baseball Classic, but Manny will be here on March 1, and he'll be ready for the season," Epstein said.
The Dominican Republic has not submitted its final 30-man roster yet, and it is not obligated to do so until March 2.
David Ortiz, Ramirez's Boston teammate and fellow Dominican basher, didn't have a feel for whether the left fielder would join him for the World Baseball Classic.
"I don't know what he's going to do with the [World] Baseball Classic," Ortiz said. "I have no idea."
Has Ramirez rescinded his long-standing trade request?
"That's between Manny and the club," said Epstein.
However, Francona elaborated a bit more, revealing that he thinks Ramirez will be fine wearing a Boston uniform in 2006.
In a way, this compromise was similar to the events that preceded the July 31 trade deadline. At that point, Ramirez also was disgruntled and open to changing uniforms. In an effort to clear his head, Francona gave Ramirez a couple of games off against the Twins. When Ramirez returned to the lineup for a game-winning pinch-hit on July 31, he seemed rejuvenated. He then had a monster finish to the season.
Perhaps this latest gesture by the Red Sox will pay similar dividends.
"Oh yeah, that's what I'm saying," Francona said. "I'm OK with this. In a perfect world, everybody shows up [Thursday] and nobody is a pound overweight and nobody does this. But it's not a perfect world. We're dealing with a lot of personalities, but it's going to work out by doing it this way. It's going to work out better."
"Sometimes in life, things aren't perfect, but we're OK with this resolution, given the conversations we've had," said Epstein.
The Red Sox did not present a concise answer on why Ramirez will report roughly a week later than his teammates.
"A lot of it is between Manny and the club, but after talking to him over the last several days, we're satisfied that it's in everybody's best interests that he finish his regimen in Florida and show up on March 1," Epstein said. "We're OK with this resolution."
Ramirez's teammates barely seemed to bat an eyelash when briefed on the news. Distraction? To the Red Sox, this appeared to hardly register in the concern department.
"Manny's a good teammate," said Red Sox captain Jason Varitek. "Different people have different things going on. He knows how to prepare himself. If he's not prepared and he's not able to do things, then you can question him."
As long as Ramirez continues to pile up gaudy numbers, his teammates will remain unconcerned about his itinerary.
"When Manny comes, Manny's going to rake," said Red Sox right-hander Bronson Arroyo. "That's all we can ask from him. Everybody understands Manny. He's a hard worker. He's in the gym every day in the offseason."
Arroyo also acknowledged with no bitterness that superstars sometimes march to their own beat.
"Obviously, everybody likes to see you around and get to know your new teammates," said Arroyo. "But everybody understands Manny's not on the same page with all of us. Just like Pedro [Martinez]. Pedro was used to doing his own thing, but you win 15 to 20 games every year, you've earned the respect of your teammates, and nobody is going to [complain] about it."
"I think he's earned special treatment," Arroyo continued. "It's like what we talk about out there [on the field]. Tito [Francona] stands in the meeting every single year and he says, 'The veterans around here are not going to be treated like the young guys. They're not going on [long] road trips. They're not going to go to Fort Lauderdale to sit in the bullpen and maybe not get an inning.' You've earned that right by being around here. I think Manny has earned the right to have probably more freedom than anybody we have around here right now."
From role players like Arroyo to fellow stars like ace Curt Schilling and slugger Ortiz, everyone seemed to agree.
"[Ramirez] will be here March 1, and he'll be ready to play," said Schilling. "Who do we play first, Texas? April 3. He'll be there April 3 and might hit two homers."
Despite Ramirez's outwardly goofy nature, his teammates all know how much pride he takes in his craft.
"One thing Manny always does is put his time and effort into getting ready," said Schilling. "I'm not worried about that. Once it's April 3 and he's healthy, we'll be fine. Manny's one of those guys who if he didn't show up for Spring Training, I'd still know he'd be ready for the season when the season started."
And when it does, Francona looks forward to once again putting Ramirez's name in the cleanup spot, right behind Ortiz.
"Again, I think the way I view it is, he's our player and we want to get the most out of him," said Francona. "Sometimes you make some adjustments along the way and you try to understand some people's thinking and you try to get to the same goal together, and I think that's what we're trying to do, and I think this is going to be just fine."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.