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Sore knee stalls Ramírez

All-Star Game is out, says Francona

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Manny Ramírez, who received more fan votes than any player in the American League, will not participate in Tuesday's All-Star Game because of a sore right knee, Red Sox manager Terry Francona indicated yesterday. The decision has yet to be announced by Major League Baseball.

``Just not sure why it hasn't been [announced]," Francona said. ``I know there's been some red tape. It's getting bogged down a little bit."

MLB officials were not available yesterday, given the holiday. It could be that MLB is attempting to persuade Ramírez to play.

The 10-time All-Star has played in 77 of the Sox' 81 games but has a sore knee, according to Francona, who has cited Ramírez's knee as the reason for the occasional day off and for prematurely taking him out of some one-sided games in recent weeks.

Francona, as he often does, stepped up to take the bullet for Ramírez's expected withdrawal as far back as Sunday's All-Star Game roster announcement, saying, ``If somebody's going to take some heat I hope it's me. I asked him to not play . . . in the interests of our ball club."

Francona had to make that statement because Ramírez refuses to speak for himself. After the game, Ramírez twice silently declined to answer reporters' questions.

Without talking with him, it's difficult to gauge whether his knee really is bothering him, and whether that is the actual reason he's asking out of the All-Star Game.

In Atlanta two weeks ago, Ramírez asked for a day off. He arrived wearing a sizeable ice wrap on his knee, prompting teammate Trot Nixon to shout across the room, ``Manny, take that eyewash off your knee."

This stands to be the third time Ramírez will opt not to play in the All-Star Game. In 2003, with the Sox, he was scheduled to start but skipped it because of a sore left hamstring.

He did not attend the game, instead traveling to Miami to be with his mother, who was ill.

In 2000, with Cleveland, he was elected by the fans to start even though he hadn't played since May 29, also because of a sore left hamstring. He was criticized that season by Cleveland owner James Dolan, general manager John Hart, and teammate Omar Vizquel for remaining on the DL for so long. Ramírez, at the urging of his then-agent, Jeff Moorad, attended the game but did not play.

``I came for the fans to see me," Ramírez said upon showing up at the 2000 All-Star Game. ``If I didn't show up it would look bad."

Francona, who is left to answer for Ramírez, said, ``I understand he's the leading vote-getter. That's why I said I don't want Manny to catch hell. I tried to come out early enough so it isn't disrespectful."

Will the slugging left fielder still attend the game, even if he doesn't play?

``I don't know about that," Francona said. ``That's up to him. I don't know what the ramifications are. I just think the three days [off] would be huge for him."

Clement hit again
Hard as it may be to believe, Matt Clement was hit yet again by a line drive, this time in a rehab appearance with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla., yesterday morning. Clement was hit on the foot, in the first inning. He pitched through that, went back out for the second inning, threw two warmup pitches, and walked off the mound with biceps soreness, the same problem that has limited him to two starts since May 29 and none since June 14.

Clement, who was scheduled to throw 45-50 pitches, got in just 17 in his one inning of work under the watchful eyes of general manager GM Theo Epstein and assistant trainer Mike Reinold.

``Kind of mixed reviews on the one inning," Francona said. ``He was 86-87-88 [miles per hour]."

Francona had penciled Clement in to make three rehab starts and rejoin the rotation, if able, July 19 vs. Kansas City.

``I don't know if that's realistic now," Francona said.

The plan?

``Get him back here and on the strength program and see where we're at," Francona said. ``I don't think he was alarmed. I still think he felt he made process. I just think what it did is it maybe slowed down the progression. He'll be looked at [today] and we'll know a lot more about what the progression is."

Clement has now been struck by a comebacker on at least four occasions with the Sox. Carl Crawford, in the scariest of the incidents, hit Clement in the head here July 26 last summer. Carl Everett smoked Clement in the thigh and left wrist in Game 1 of last season's American League Division Series. Bernie Williams hit Clement in the ankle May 25. Then came yesterday.

Bombs away
Ramírez's ninth-inning homer, measured at 457 feet but probably more than 470 feet, was his 222d with the Sox, tying Jimmie Foxx for seventh on the club's all-time list, one behind Bobby Doerr. His homer, based upon the Devil Rays' distance determination, was the 10th longest at Tropicana Field. He also owns the ninth longest, a 458-foot shot Sept. 27, 2004 to the same spot in the ballpark -- the roof of the Batter's Eye restaurant in dead center . . . Ramírez and David Ortiz homered in the same game for the 38th time. The Sox are 33-5 in those games . . . Yesterday was Game No. 81, meaning the season is half over. The Sox, at this pace, will go 100-62 . . . File under ``This would never happen in Boston": Tampa Bay's Jonny Gomes tossed a ball into the stands in the bottom of the sixth inning. It landed two rows deep and rattled around in a row of four vacant seats . . . Devil Rays reliever Chad Harville, who pitched for the Sox late last season, couldn't believe his eyes in the third inning. Ramírez, in his second at-bat, fell behind 0 and 2 and, on the third pitch, was taking the whole way. ``He was looking, 0 and 2," Harville said. ``My God. I'm going to wear him out about that tomorrow." . . . Organizers announced that James Taylor will be playing the Hot Stove, Cool Music benefit concert July 12 at Fenway Park.

IMAGES AND INFO For a gallery of photos from last night's game and news updates heading into tonight's Red Sox-Devil Rays contest, go to www.boston.com/redsox

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