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Ramirez said to be 'unfazed'

Agent insists that he'll stay with Sox

PHOENIX -- The agent, of course, does not sign the checks. John W. Henry does.

But less than two weeks after the Red Sox placed Manny Ramirez on irrevocable waivers, in an attempt to satisfy the player's desire to go to the Yankees while creating some payroll flexibility for themselves, Ramirez's agent, Jeff Moorad, said here yesterday that Ramirez won't be going anywhere next season.

"It didn't happen and it isn't going to happen," Moorad said in the lobby of the hotel where baseball's general managers have assembled for weeklong meetings. "At this point the focus is on the Boston Red Sox."

No team, including the Yankees, ponied up the $20,000 required to claim Ramirez on waivers, and Moorad, who had had discussions with the Sox prior to the move, said he does not believe general manager Theo Epstein will be shopping Ramirez here.

Putting a player of Ramirez's stature on waivers was highly unusual. What made it even more controversial were Moorad's statements regarding Ramirez's desire to play for the Yankees, and crediting the Sox for creating a vehicle that would have made it possible.

But Moorad yesterday dismissed the suggestion that Ramirez's desire for pinstripes has placed him in an untenable position in Boston, where fans might not be thrilled that the team's highest-paid player pines for the team's most bitter rival.

"Manny's unfazed by all of that stuff," Moorad said. "He's prepared to play for the 2004 Red Sox. Manny's actions on the field will speak for themselves. At this point, the only thing he is focusing on is coming to Fort Myers in the best shape he can and contributing the best he can to the 2004 Red Sox.

"If you want to get mad at somebody, get mad at the agent for being too honest about a player wanting to play for his hometown team."

Yesterday was the first day teams could talk money with free agents other than their own, and with a record 210 free agents available, and dozens of additional players likely to come on the market when they are not tendered contracts by Dec. 20, it's definitely a buyer's market.

Epstein, who arrived here yesterday with his assistant, Josh Byrnes, said last night that the club has yet to make any offers, though they have been in contact with numerous agents as the Sox attempt to upgrade their pitching and at second base, among other needs.

Epstein said "it could still go either way" on re-signing setup man Mike Timlin. "We have many free agent relievers, from [Keith] Foulke to [Mark] Guthrie, Arthur Rhodes, etc.," agent Jeff Borris said. "They seem to have interest in all of them at this point."One top reliever who has been contacted by the Sox is Eddie Guardado, the 33-year-old lefthander who has saved 86 games the last two seasons for the Twins, including 41 last season. His agent, Kevin Kohler, said he spoke with Byrnes last week and claimed there is "quite a bit" of interest on both sides. "Eddie is real good friends with David Ortiz," said Kohler, referring to the Sox DH who was Guardado's teammate until the Twins nontendered him last December and he signed with Boston a month later. "He told him what the clubhouse was like last year, and Eddie thinks he'd be a really good fit. I think Boston and the Cubs are his first two choices."

There are any number of relievers on the market, which if last season is any indication, will be slow to form. Only six free agents signed last winter by Dec. 6, the day before teams had to decide whether to offer arbitration to their own free agents. If arbitration is offered and the player signs elsewhere, the club receives draft picks as compensation. In Guardado's case, he is a Type A free agent, meaning a club would receive two picks as compensation, but the Twins aren't expected to offer him arbitration, meaning it would be prudent for the Sox to wait. If they sign him now, they would owe the Twins compensation.

Epstein is scheduled to interview Angels bench coach Joe Maddon tomorrow for the managerial opening. Maddon will be the third candidate to interview, joining Dodgers third base coach Glenn Hoffman and A's bench coach Terry Francona. A fourth candidate, Angels pitching coach Bud Black, pulled himself out of consideration. . . .

Epstein said he has not yet gathered the facts regarding an alleged incident involving Sox pitcher Byung Hyun Kim in his native Korea, in which Kim was reported to have struck a newspaper photographer and broken his camera. One source familiar with the incident described it as a "Sean Penn" type thing. Kim, obtained last May in a trade for Shea Hillenbrand, is a candidate for the Sox' starting rotation next season. They could elect to nontender him (he was paid $3.25 million last season), but one industry source scoffed at that scenario and said Kim would stay with Boston . . . Commissioner Bud Selig addressed the GMs yesterday and afterward told reporters that results of Major League Baseball's drug testing last season should be available in the next few days. Rob Manfred, executive vice president of labor relations, said all 1,200 players were tested, and 240 were retested randomly during the season. If 5 percent of the tests turn up positive, under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, testing would be mandatory for the next three seasons. In addition, Manfred said the artificial steroid THG automatically will be tested for under terms of the agreement.

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