Somewhere, beneath that emotionless facade and that monotone voice that have earned Bill Mueller the moniker ''Billy Ballgame" among his teammates, there must have been a release of anxiety, a feeling of contentment knowing that the work he's begun this season he can see through to the end.
''I guess," said Mueller, who packed extra clothing on the recent road trip to Chicago and Tampa Bay in case he was dealt to Minnesota for reliever J.C. Romero. ''I think you prepare yourself either way. Until it happens you're still on the team. It's speculation. It's just that. You keep doing what you're doing."
Mueller will keep doing it in a Sox uniform, which, along with the retention of Manny Ramirez, were the two most celebrated non-trades in the clubhouse yesterday afternoon. Multiple teammates made it quite clear last week they didn't want to see Mueller go.
''I didn't either," said manager Terry Francona. ''I've been telling him that this week: 'Billy, you're a good player, and more than anything there's one team that really coveted you.' I don't blame them. I would, too.
''But I told him, 'I don't think you're going anywhere. If I were you I'd try to relax. It's more a case of a team coming after you than anything else.' That was the truth. Nobody wanted to see Billy Mueller go. I bet the last guy was [GM] Theo Epstein. I don't think that was ever as close to reality as it was portrayed. I do think a team wanted him real bad."
Mueller, meanwhile, was more willing to discuss the core of the team remaining as constituted. Kevin Millar stayed put. Ramirez, nearly dealt to the Mets, stayed.
''That's wonderful," Mueller said. ''I've been a part of this the last couple years. I'm happy it's still intact. We'll make a run."
But, it's not as if the Sox haven't made roster changes. The club went into today's offday with nine players on the club who weren't on the 25-man roster July 3. The list: Adam Stern, Curt Schilling, Alex Cora, Tony Graffanino, Gabe Kapler, Chad Bradford, Jon Papelbon, Jeremi Gonzalez, and Manny Delcarmen. Another player, outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., will join the team tomorrow.
''We've made moves," Millar said. ''It's a good ballclub."
Mark Bellhorn, who is eligible to come off the disabled list tomorrow, will begin a rehab stint of an indeterminate length tonight in Pawtucket. Bellhorn, who sprained his left thumb July 17, doesn't know when he'll be activated. ''It won't be tomorrow," he said. ''It's kind of day-to-day." How's the thumb? ''It's still sore in certain spots," said Bellhorn, who doesn't know what awaits him when he does return, given Graffanino's recent acquisition and steady play. ''The only problem I have is catching the ball [on a line]. Ground balls don't hurt. I don't have any problem swinging." . . . John Olerud left yesterday's game after tweaking his left hamstring running the bases in the seventh inning. ''Hamstrings are something I've had problems with from time to time," said Olerud, who has now knocked in as many runs (nine) in his last four games as he did in his first 45 games with the team. ''Hopefully, it isn't anything serious." Olerud intends to visit Fenway during the offday today to meet with the training staff . . . Jason Varitek doubled in the seventh inning, stretching his hitting streak to nine games, during which he's batting .382 (13 for 34) with five doubles . . . The Sox had gone a season-high seven games without an error before Mueller's sixth-inning throwing error.
Clement a go
Matt Clement will start Thursday vs. Kansas City, just nine days after being struck near his right ear with a Carl Crawford line drive. ''He wanted to go [on his scheduled day] Tuesday and he was kind of adamant about it," Francona said. ''I stepped in and said, 'No, Tuesday's out. If you feel good Tuesday you'll feel great Thursday.' We don't need to back him up any more than that. He's passed all his tests with flying colors with the medical people." . . . Papelbon became the ninth starting pitcher deployed this season by the Sox, who used eight all of last year. This season's list: Clement (21), Tim Wakefield (21), Bronson Arroyo (21), David Wells (19), Wade Miller (14), Schilling (3), Gonzalez (3), John Halama (1), and Papelbon (1). A year ago five pitchers -- Schilling, Wakefield, Arroyo, Pedro Martinez, and Derek Lowe -- combined to make all but five of the team's starts. Byung Hyun Kim started three times, and Abe Alvarez and Pedro Astacio made one start apiece . . . Wells, following his Saturday start, had this to say on NESN about Ramirez, who was in the lineup before being scratched shortly before gametime: ''If he's not out there, that creates a problem. He better have a great excuse." Said Francona: ''If that's what he said that's just not knowing. He's the starter [Saturday] night. I can't run to him and explain to him [the situation with Ramirez]. That's a lack of communication, but what are you going to do? The guy's pitching. I never even thought about that. I never even remotely thought of it. I should have." Wells was one of the first players to congratulate Ramirez once he returned to the dugout following his game-deciding RBI single yesterday . . . Johnny Damon's single to lead off the game extended his streak of games with a hit, a run scored, or both to 43.