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Ramírez still hard to reach

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Manny Ramírez's intentions regarding the World Baseball Classic remain unclear.

Last night, Manny Acta, manager of the team representing the Dominican Republic, said he has not been able to contact Ramírez to learn whether he plans to play.

''We haven't been able to talk to Manny," Acta, who is also third base coach for the New York Mets, wrote in an e-mail. ''Word is that he was in Brazil most of the offseason. However, we are planning to keep trying to reach him and if we can't reach him, we will wait until he shows to camp and let him make his decision."

On Tuesday, the Sox announced that Ramírez had been given permission to report March 1. But if Ramírez is to play for the Dominican Republic, he would be expected to report the next day to Orlando, where the Dominicans will train prior to their first game March 7. There were strong indications, however, that Ramírez had informed the Sox he was withdrawing from the WBC and would spend March with the Sox.

Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball's chief labor lawyer, said yesterday he was unaware that Ramírez, who had earlier signaled his willingness to play in the WBC, had had a change of heart.

''As far as we know, Manny remains on the Dominican eligible list," Manfred wrote in an e-mail. " MLB remains very interested in doing all it can to encourage him to participate."

Union lawyer Gene Orza, who has played a major role in lining up players for the tournament, was curiously silent yesterday, failing to respond to phone calls and e-mails. Orza is scheduled to take part in a media teleconference on the WBC this afternoon and perhaps will be forthcoming.

Ramírez's agent, Greg Genske, remained incommunicado on questions regarding his client.

Lajoie leaves team

Bill Lajoie, who in December worked as the Red Sox' de facto general manager at the winter meetings and closed the deal that sent Edgar Renteria to Atlanta for Andy Marte, confirmed yesterday that he has ended his relationship with the team.

Lajoie, 71, exercised a clause in his contract that allowed him to opt out after Jan. 31, informing both CEO Larry Lucchino and GM Theo Epstein of his decision. This comes less than three months after he was given a new title -- special adviser to baseball operations.

Lajoie, who won a World Series in the first of his six seasons as Tigers GM in 1984, has been in baseball for more than 50 years.

He joined the Sox as a special assistant to the GM in 2003 and worked tirelessly this winter, despite having battled leukemia in recent years. He contracted pneumonia during the winter meetings and returned to his Florida home in mid-December.

He said he has contemplated retirement but is undecided about his plans. He did not rule out joining another club.

Loretta, Snow in camp

Mark Loretta and J.T. Snow arrived in camp yesterday. Manager Terry Francona confirmed the expected: that, if all goes according to plan, Loretta will bat second. Snow, at the moment, figures to get fewer at-bats than Kevin Youkilis at first. But, this much is sure: Snow will be on the field when the game is hanging in the balance.

''He's about as good defensively as you're ever going to see in the game," said Francona. ''Offensively, he's had some up-and-down years. His home run power has dropped off; I think some of that has to do with the ballpark [San Francisco's SBC Park]. What he will bring at worst is a true professional player. Loretta, [Mike] Lowell, J.T., [John] Flaherty, they're all the same way."

Joked Loretta: ''I might be the weak link in this infield. I think I'm the only one without a Gold Glove when [Snow] is out there."

Shortstop Alex González doesn't have a Gold Glove, but it's becoming clear that most people incorrectly assume he has won one because of his superlative glovework.

Wallace hospitalized

Pitching coach Dave Wallace, hospitalized a couple weeks ago with an infection in his hip that spread through his body, has been hospitalized again. Wallace was expected in camp no sooner than early-to-mid-March but at this point he could miss all of camp. There's also a possibility that Wallace, who had a hip replaced several years ago, might need another replacement. If so, Wallace might not be able to return this season . . . David Wells played catch again but still refuses to conduct interviews.

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