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His shoulder is still a sore spot for Ortiz

SEATTLE -- For David Ortiz, the wonder may be that he has produced as well as he has since he injured his right shoulder diving awkwardly trying unsuccessfully to score Aug. 29 against the Tigers at Fenway Park. Ortiz started yesterday's 2-0 loss to the Mariners on the bench because of nagging soreness in the shoulder. He said he initially feared the injury was severe.

"The next day, I couldn't even comb my hair," he said. "I barely could hold my baby up. I was kind of worried about it because it was very sore. I couldn't even put my jacket on. I was like, `OK, I need to get a MRI. There might be something wrong.' "

Ortiz played two games after the injury before his shoulder bothered him so much that he sat out the next two nights. He returned Sept. 4 and played eight straight games, batting .233 (7 for 30) with two doubles, four homers, nine RBIs, and a .361 on-base percentage, through Saturday.

Before Saturday's game, Ortiz put on a show in batting practice, walloping several balls into the upper decks at Safeco Field. He went 0 for 3 with a walk, lining out twice and flying deep to center. Afterward, he suggested to manager Terry Francona it might be wise to rest yesterday and the off day today to prepare for the final push toward the playoffs.

"I told him a couple of days ago, `Be honest with how you feel,' " Francona said. "I just think he kind of took me up on it."

Ortiz said, "It's been feeling better and better. I guess a couple days off will make it feel even better."

Ortiz pinch hit for Pokey Reese with two out and a runner on first base in the seventh inning and lined to third base.

Ortiz suggested he was not concerned that missing games could cost him a chance to hit 40 homers or win the RBI title. He has 37 homers and shares the RBI lead with Baltimore's Miguel Tejada with 125.

"I don't know if I want to hit 40 homers because then they're going to ask me for 40 all the time," he joked. "That's something you can't control. Like I told Manny [Ramirez], `Hey, you're very smart. You always hit 30. I know you can hit 50.' "

As for the MVP race, the consensus among the Sox is that Ortiz and Ramirez should be co-winners. But Ortiz gave the nod to Ramirez.

"It's crazy how this game goes, but I don't think we would be where we are right now without Manny," he said. "Manny locks himself in and he locks everybody else in with him. When he's doing well, the rest of us are doing well."

With Ortiz out, Jason Varitek batted cleanup and went 0 for 4.

Nixon is all right
Making his first start in right field since July 24, Trot Nixon went 2 for 3 with a double before he was lifted for pinch runner Dave Roberts after singling to lead off the seventh. Nixon is trying to make his second comeback of the season from a serious injury to his left quadriceps. "I would have liked to have stayed in there a little bit longer," Nixon said, "but I guess they have a plan and wanted to stick to it, so I understand that." The Sox want to prevent Nixon's injury from recurring. Or, as he put it, the team is proceeding cautiously "probably so I don't do something stupid. Sometimes it's not good to trust me all the time," he said, referring to his inability to go less than full speed . . . The Sox planned to use three former Gold Glovers -- Orlando Cabrera at short, Reese at second, and Doug Mientkiewicz at first -- behind Derek Lowe, but Mientkiewicz was a late scratch with flu symptoms. As a result, David McCarty got his first start since Aug. 12. The infield, including third baseman Bill Mueller, played flawlessly. Reese started for the first time since July 17. But since Reese has had so few at-bats since he went on the disabled list July 20, the Sox are reluctant to begin using him regularly, even in the games Lowe pitches . . . Johnny Damon reached safely in his 22d straight game . . . Sox pitchers worked 19 scoreless innings before Raul Ibanez homered off Lowe in the sixth. The homer was the first Lowe had surrendered in 19 1/3 innings . . . Ichiro Suzuki went 4 for 16 with three infield singles in the series as he chases George Sisler's season hit record. The Sox were pleased they allowed Suzuki to score only once in four games . . . The loss prevented the Sox from winning their eighth straight series as they settled for a split. 

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