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ON BASEBALL

They need to clear their heads after this beating

CLEVELAND -- Now that we have incontrovertible proof Josh Beckett will not go undefeated in his first season with the Red Sox -- the next thing you know, Jonathan Papelbon is going to blow a save in 2006 -- we interrupt the requisite gnashing of teeth for this pop quiz in advance of Monday's visit by the Yankees.

Who said the following: ''I don't want them to hate me. I don't want them to think I'm a traitor. We have enough hatred in the world without this."

A.) Josh Bard, the beleaguered Sox catcher who did not commit a single passed ball in last night's 15-3 loss to the Indians;

B.) Wily Mo Peña, who never asked to be traded for Bronson Arroyo in a deal that general manager Theo Epstein might someday swear was made while he was in South America with Pearl Jam;

C.) Curt Schilling, who a month after winning the 2004 World Series helped President Bush carry Ohio;

D.) Johnny Damon, who really, really, really hopes you plan to cheer him.

The answer: Damon, as quoted by Bob Nightengale in this week's USA Today/Baseball Weekly.

There was plenty of time to conjure such questions on a night Sox pitchers threw 202 pitches -- 100 by Beckett while retiring just 11 of the 23 batters he faced -- and walked a season-high 10 batters, primarily as a public service for the Indians' Ben Broussard in his bid to become the greatest platoon first baseman in history. Broussard drove in eight runs with a grand slam and a solo home run in his two at-bats against Beckett, a two-run single off Julian Tavarez, and an RBI single off Manny Delcarmen. The Indians have not had a player knock in as many runs in a game since Manny Ramírez was still with the Tribe, in 1999.

Broussard, who plays against righthanders while Eduardo (son of Tony) Perez faces lefthanders, went 4 for 5 and is batting .489 (23 for 47) from the left side. That makes Broussard slightly more dangerous at the dish than Corky (that's his real name) Miller, the Sox minor league catcher who can hold onto a knuckleball but is 1 for his last 54 in the big leagues, which probably assures him of remaining in Pawtucket for the foreseeable future.

''You run into nights like this," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, ''when you don't have an answer for anything they're doing."

Beckett, after absorbing the worst beating of a career still in its relative infancy, dissected his outing with much greater precision than he located his pitches.

''Was one of those nights -- just brutal," he said. ''Brutal, brutal."

The Sox, who now have lost two out of three to Toronto and Cleveland on this three-city trip, headed to Florida last night hoping the sight of the Devil Rays will revive the offense, which last season averaged almost seven runs a game (6.7) against the D-Rays while raking Tampa Bay pitching for 32 home runs.

That was last year, of course, and this Sox edition has hardly demonstrated a similar capacity. At the start of the night, the Sox ranked 23d in the majors in runs and 20th in home runs.

And with Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon likely to stack his outfield with six fielders again against David Ortiz, someone besides Big Papi will have to pick up the slack.

Which brings us to Ramírez, who went hitless in four at-bats last night but otherwise has swung the bat on this trip like the Manny of old, with his first three home runs of the season.

Ramírez has a history against the D-Rays. Much of it is good, like the 20 home runs he has hit in just 56 games. Two of his five two-homer games have come against the D-Rays, and he's batting .317 overall against Tampa Bay.

Some of that history is hair-raising: the notorious U-turn at the plate when Grady Little was managing, and last summer's sit-down just days before the trading deadline, prompting a confrontation with Francona in Boston and a near-trade to the Mets.

But after a winter in which the Sox claimed to have made an effort to satisfy yet another Ramírez trade demand -- which might have been the most serious yet -- all seems to be OK again in Manny World. Aside from the odd interview with a kids' magazine, Ramírez has kept to himself publicly, but is as engaging as ever with teammates. Kevin Millar isn't around anymore to clown around with, and Ramírez was quite fond of Damon as well, but Tavarez, who broke into pro ball with Ramírez 14 years ago in Burlington, N.C., appears to be filling the void as primary FOM (friend of Manny).

''He's been tremendous, all spring," Francona said yesterday, lauding Ramírez for his citizenship as well as his work habits, which have remained constant.

Ramírez certainly seemed like a man content in his surroundings. Wearing a ''Yayo's Home" T-shirt (50 Cent fans know what that's all about), Ramírez visited before the game with Frank Mancini, the Cleveland clubhouse attendant who befriended Ramírez during his time here, and ate a special-delivery chicken dish with teammates Alex Cora, Ortiz, and Mike Lowell. He warmed up with bullpen coach Ralph Treuel, and wrestled on the field during stretching with Tavarez.

Content?

''Looks like it, doesn't it?" Cora said. ''I don't like to talk about it, but he's here, isn't he?"

Here, and accounted for. So it's on to the Trop, where anything that can happen usually will.

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