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Bit of a grind for Ramírez

He departs with right knee injury

NEW YORK -- Manny Ramírez worked Aaron Small for a 12-pitch at-bat in the fourth inning last night before blooping a ball to right that Melky Cabrera misplayed into a two-run error.

Leading off the sixth Ramírez turned on a Small offering, homering to left-center, his sixth of the season and the 441st of his career, pulling him within one of Dave Kingman for 32d all-time.

But he was out of the game moments later, lifted in the middle of that inning for Willie Harris.

''His right knee was kind of grinding a little bit, was kind of tender," said manager Terry Francona, who was no more specific. ''He had said something the inning before and at that point . . . we ended up taking him out to go put ice on it."

How did Ramírez injure himself?

''I don't know," Francona said. ''Grinding might not be the right word. It was just sore."

Ramírez's homer gave him 24 at Yankee Stadium, passing Rafael Palmeiro for most by a visiting player since the Stadium was remodeled in 1976.

In the seventh inning, the penultimate batter Josh Beckett faced, Robinson Cano, shot a ball up the middle that hit Beckett in the left shoe.

When Beckett saw concerned staff heading for the mound, he waved them off, shaking his head disapprovingly. He then fanned Bernie Williams looking to end the inning and his evening.

''He waved us off," Francona said. ''When he came back in he said it was a little bit swollen. He was fine."

Flaherty catches on
John Flaherty was back in the Red Sox clubhouse yesterday, this time in a suit, working for the YES Network, rather than sporting catcher's gear, working for the Sox. The 14-year veteran spent fewer than three weeks in Sox camp this spring, calling it a career the morning of March 7, two days after catching Tim Wakefield for an agonizing two innings.

''It was a full-time commitment that I was not willing to make," Flaherty said. ''I pretty much knew the first day I was there, but I wanted to give myself enough time to see if something would kick in. The two innings with Wakefield sealed the deal."

Flaherty said ''there were about six things pulling me away," and, when asked where the knuckleball experience ranked on that list, he said ''it was last."

''It was family first," said Flaherty, who has three children and built a home last year just outside this city. ''It would have been the first time I would have been away from my family during the season, which I wasn't really excited about. I think I knew when the Yankees didn't want me back that I probably didn't want to play anymore. But then the Red Sox called and I had to give it a shot.

''The three weeks of spring training told me I was not going to miss playing, I was not going to miss the grind. What I told Tito [Francona] that morning was, 'This is not fair to this team.' "

Now, he's enjoying living at home, working for YES. Flaherty said he's scheduled to work 30 games, with his duties varying.

''When I work the games for TV, there's never a moment where I want to be out there catching," he said. ''You miss the guys, but I don't miss the games."

He's been around
As expected, the Sox added PawSox lefty Mike Holtz yesterday, a day after optioning Manny Delcarmen to Pawtucket.

''With the day off [Monday] and having the bullpen pretty well rested, we felt coming into this series he wasn't going to pitch unless there was an emergency," Francona said. ''So for his benefit he needed to go pitch. Holtz was really throwing the ball well in Triple A. He's got major league experience. He's lefthanded.

''If we're down a couple, and we want to stay away from [Keith] Foulke and they have lefties coming up, Holtz is a real good option. It makes it a little bit easier to get Foulke into a game without getting him up three or four times."

When Holtz arrived in camp this spring as a nonroster invitee, he was asked about any injuries he's sustained. He mentioned the six bone chips taken out of his elbow in 2004 and the Tommy John ligament replacement. A Sox doctor asked what year he had the Tommy John procedure.

''1992," Holtz answered.

''Was that the first one [ever performed]?" the doctor jokingly asked.

The first such procedure, named after the former Yankee pitcher, was done in 1974, but the point was well-taken. Holtz has been around a while. He pitched well this spring, posting a 3.72 ERA in 11 innings. When he was demoted to minor league camp, the 5-foot-8-inch Pennsylvania resident became the oldest player there. On the PawSox, he was the second-oldest, at 33, behind only 35-year-old Ken Huckaby.

He has not pitched in the majors since late 2002 with San Diego.

With Pawtucket, Holtz fanned 24 in only 16 innings and held lefties to an .091 average (1 for 11). He throws a fastball, curveball, cutter, and changeup from several angles, as low as the hip, he said.

''I finally got here after a lot of hard work," said Holtz, who has a 4.68 ERA in 350 big-league appearances. ''I figured I'd give it one more shot this year."

The right choice?
With Randy Johnson pitching last night, Francona had to choose a right fielder and center fielder from three players with no hits in 17 combined at-bats off Johnson. Trot Nixon was 0 for 3, Wily Mo Peña 0 for 4, Dustan Mohr 0 for 10. Francona opted to begin with Mohr in center and Peña in right, with the difficult decision being Mohr over Nixon, who is 5 for 16 (.313) with a homer off lefties this year. ''Thought about it a lot," Francona said. ''I thought this was a guy who it's better off to let the righty face him." Mohr singled, walked and scored twice. Peña went 2 for 6 with two infield hits . . . Francona started Peña in right, even though he'd started regularly in center for about 10 days (he ended up playing right, center, and left last night). ''I asked the coaches what they thought," the manager said. ''We were all in agreement. If we'd have been at home, we might have actually leaned more toward keeping it where it was [with Pena starting in center]." . . . Harris snapped an 0-for-13 streak with his ninth-inning single . . . The Yankees placed Gary Sheffield on the disabled list with a bruised left hand. Cabrera was called up from Triple A and started in right, batting ninth. Last night's error aside, Cabrera, 21, is best known to Sox fans for misplaying a Nixon liner last July 15 into an inside-the-park home run in a 17-1 Sox win.

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