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Tale of tape? Cut him slack

Caught on tape: Curt Schilling's animated discussion with Manny Ramirez in the outfield before yesterday's 6-5 loss to the Texas Rangers. Here we go again. With the Red Sox this season, there have been some timing problems regarding the resting of players. There was Nomar Garciaparra being rested during the finale of a three-game series against the Yankees recently. According to a team source, the medical staff went to manager Terry Francona the night before and told him it was imperative Garciaparra's Achilles' tendon be rested then and there. Should Garciaparra have risked it? There was controversy, especially when the shortstop tore the cover off the ball in the next series in Atlanta.

And now, with the team rolling along, there's an issue with Ramirez, who has tightness in his hamstrings. Ramirez, who whacked two home runs Saturday night, was not in the starting lineup in yesterday's finale before the break, although he did pinch hit in the ninth inning. He popped out, but he didn't look any the worse for wear. Could he have batted four times as the designated hitter? We may never know, as nobody associated with the Sox would comment on that specifically.

Not even Schilling.

The scene in the outfield with Schilling and Ramirez sure looked like one man telling the other he should be in the lineup. Schilling's finger was waving at Ramirez, who appeared to be nodding and listening.

"We were talking about a lot of things," Schilling said. "A few of us were out there talking. No big deal. We were talking about having a sleepover at Manny's."

Francona spoke about the issue before the game. He spoke about it after the game. He seemed irritated by the questions about why Ramirez wasn't in the lineup.

"I always like to have everybody available," Francona said. "He's been icing . . . I already answered this . . . he's been icing his hammy all week. He made himself available to pinch hit and we tried to find a spot where we could go get him and have somebody to run. It's not always a perfect situation, but we got him up there in a situation where we could get him on and get somebody to run . . . we got him up there in a situation where he could change the game with one swing. It just [didn't] happen."

The manager had Ramirez out in the eighth, ready to pinch hit for Kevin Millar after Garciaparra singled to lead off the inning. But when Trot Nixon struck out and Garciaparra stole second base on a hit-and-run, Francona didn't want to waste Ramirez with the likelihood Texas manager Buck Showalter would walk him with first open. Millar fouled to the catcher, and David McCarty struck out swinging.

In the ninth, Bill Mueller walked, and out came Ramirez. He saw some fastballs from Francisco Cordero, one pitch whizzing by at 99 miles per hour. But Cordero, who now has 27 saves, got Ramirez to pop to short right field.

Ramirez dressed quickly after the game and headed to the All-Star Game in Houston after a magnificent first half in which he hit 26 homers, had 77 RBIs, and a whopping .344 batting average. He was batting .411 with 7 homers, 8 doubles, and 27 RBIs over the 14 games before yesterday's. He's missed only two games, three starts. When a player walks into the manager's office and says he needs to rest his hamstrings, what should the skipper do? Francona had to honor the request.

Manny's story has been well-chronicled, starting with the team placing him on waivers, and no other team claiming the best all-around hitter in baseball. Then he was subjected to A-Rod trade speculation, and was close to wearing the uniform of the Rangers. Yet he cast aside events that would have hurt many players and has been a good (US) citizen, playing hard and often. Even in left field Ramirez has given 100 percent.

By now Ramirez must know how important he is to the team. None of us ever will be able to tell how sore those hamstrings were. Ramirez has a history of tight hamstrings. In his final season with the Indians he missed 39 games with a hamstring tear. If he had started and had to run, he might have ripped one of them and would have been lost for the long term. The Red Sox would be hard-pressed without Ramirez for a large portion of the second half.

But there's also history about Ramirez skipping final games before the break, raising eyebrows over his request yesterday to sit it out. He hasn't started the final game before the break the last three years. Last season he phoned Grady Little at 5:45 a.m. to inform Little his mother was sick and he couldn't play. In '02 Little gave Ramirez a day off after he'd come back from a broken finger, although Ramirez pinch hit in that game as well.

Whether Schilling was telling Ramirez he needed to play, or whether they were discussing a sleepover, Schilling has made it clear to his teammates he will butt into their business, because he feels what affects the team is his business.

"I've always opened my mouth on things," Schilling said. "I have my opinions. I know some of those opinions are going to get me in trouble sometimes. I'm not malicious about them. It's important for me to be involved when I'm not playing. It affects me. If I see something, I'm going to say something."

But Schilling still was not going to divulge what he said to Ramirez.

The clip was shown over and over on NESN. It was on the newscasts at night. Schilling was waving his finger, but we'll never know what was being said unless we hire a lip-reader.

What is known is that Ramirez might have been a factor at some juncture in yesterday's game. In the fourth inning, when the Sox scored twice, perhaps he would have meant more. Then there was the sixth, when Garciaparra, hitting in Ramirez's No. 4 hole, knocked into a double play to take the Sox out of an inning.

No one can take away the fact that Ramirez had one of the most devastating halves in Red Sox history. He should be given a mulligan on this one. He's played a lot more this season than anyone would have predicted.

Yesterday, the Sox fell one run short. Maybe it was, as Schilling said, merely the calls at the end of the game (Pokey Reese getting picked off in the ninth and a called third strike on an outside pitch on 3-2 to Mark Bellhorn to end the game).

But maybe it was one run Ramirez might have provided. 

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