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Complaint Dept. quiet

No objections to Little's move

CHICAGO -- No tears were shed in the Red Sox clubhouse last night over the benching of Manny Ramirez. Never mind that Grady Little's pennant-hungry crew faced the surging White Sox with one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball ostensibly contributing less than the batboy.

Almost to a player, the Sox fully supported Little's decision, which came amid the fallout over Ramirez's failure to report to the park Sunday for a pivotal game against the Yankees.

Ramirez, who came down last week with acute throat inflammation, had been well enough the night before to visit with his old friend, Enrique Wilson, a Yankee infielder.

The Sox started Gabe Kapler in left field last night, and his sixth-inning solo home run was the difference in a 2-1 Boston win.

"We'll let [Ramirez] enjoy another day off," said Johnny Damon, the team's player representative. "Then hopefully he'll be ready to go for the rest of the season." One player, asked if anyone in the clubhouse objected to the benching, said, "No chance."

Even David Ortiz, Ramirez's best friend on the team, was reluctant to side too much with the $160 million slugger. Ortiz has assumed the cleanup role in Ramirez's five-game absence.

"He knows that he needs to be in this lineup," said Ortiz, who was the DH last night and went 0 for 3. "I was messing around with him, saying, `Hey man, look, I'm not a cleanup hitter. Get your [butt] in the lineup.' "

Ramirez's response? "He said, `You're doing OK. Don't worry, I'll be back,' " Ortiz said.

Ortiz made it clear he supported Little's decision, though he also suggested Ramirez may have believed he was acting in the best interest of the team when he rejected requests to pinch hit Monday in a tight game against the Phillies -- a move that also angered some of Ramirez's teammates.

Ortiz said the Sox may have been better served sending out Damian Jackson and Lou Merloni at full strength rather than Ramirez when his timing was off and his strength diminished. "He doesn't want to go out there and try to be the man and come out with negative results," Ortiz said. "Sometimes, when you're smart enough, you make a tough decision that may not seem like a good decision to someone else."

A number of other players said privately they were irked by Ramirez's failure to at least attend Sunday's game, even if only as a uniformed observer. One player said Ramirez's presence would have created a "fear factor," possibly altering the way the Yankees strategized.

Damon concurred. "We wanted him to get out there and help the team," Damon said. "Against the Yankees, we wanted him just to hold the bat, even sleep on the bench with it if that was the case. But that wasn't the case, so Joe Torre was able to make some moves that could have cost us."

Abad gets call

Rather than wait another day to add another lefthanded bat, the Sox called up Andy Abad, who led the International League in RBIs (93) and ranked among the leaders in batting (.304) and on-base percentage (.372). Abad, 31, who was drafted by the Sox in 1993, has batted only once in the major leagues, popping out as a pinch hitter for Jeremy Giambi with the A's Sept. 10, 2001. Now he will fill the role Giambi vacated when he went on the disabled list before undergoing shoulder surgery.

Abad was scheduled to open a five-game playoff series with Triple A Pawtucket tonight at Ottawa but changed directions and was scheduled to arrive in Chicago just before last night's game. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Sox designated for assignment Double A righthander Ryan Cameron, a former star at the University of Massachusetts.

The Sox also recalled Todd Jones, who had been optioned to Single A Augusta in a paper move last week to make room for Merloni. Ramiro Mendoza remained on the DL with a sore back.

Ace in line

Pedro Martinez, whose severe throat inflammation turned out to be strep throat, remains on track to pitch Friday against the Yankees amid some concern about his stamina. The aftereffects of the illness sapped him against the Yankees last Saturday, when he struggled mightily to hit 90 miles per hour on the radar gun . . . The Sox are likely to wait until after the season before they begin planning for next year, but if they have any interest in holding onto Ortiz, he would be all ears. "Right now I'm worried about the playoffs," he said. "But I'd like to play 10 more years here. What do you think? Ten more years? I'd be 37. I'll be fine then." . . . Doug Mirabelli was scheduled to leave today for Boston, where his wife, Kristin, was expected to deliver their second child. She was due to go into labor today, and Mirabelli hoped to accompany her home after the delivery, then rejoin the team this weekend in New York. He was expected to miss one or two games at the most, with Bill Haselman serving as Jason Varitek's backup . . . A few Sox players, including Merloni, spent time catching up before the game with Brian Daubach, the former Sox first baseman who has spent much of the season in the wilderness with the White Sox. With Paul Konerko heating up and Chicago beefing up the rest of its roster, Daubach has logged only 27 at-bats since the All-Star break. "It's kind of tough not playing," Daubach said. "It's hard to get used to it."

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