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Ramírez will make the call

Slugger's return now up to him

TORONTO - The date of Manny Ramírez's return is essentially up to him, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. Ramírez has missed the team's last 19 games, including last night, since straining his left oblique Aug. 28 in New York.

"He needs to clear himself," Francona said. "The medical people have gotten fairly aggressive, he's swinging the bat fairly aggressively, but there has to be . . . a confidence from himself that he can go play the game and not hurt himself. And that's a hard thing. Myself included, you see him go hit the ball out on the street, you go, 'Oh man,' but you can really make some disastrous mistakes trying to read somebody else's body. It doesn't work."

Last season, Ramírez started just eight of the team's last 36 games after being diagnosed with what the club called patellar tendinitis in his right knee.

"I mean, it's easy for us to sit here and go, 'We'd like him to play,' " Francona said. "Nine times out of 10, he's probably OK. But he's got to know inside that he can play the game and not hurt himself."

Historically, Toronto has been one of Ramírez's favorite places to play. He has hit 27 home runs here, tied for his most in a visiting park with Yankee Stadium. This season, he has two home runs at Rogers Centre and is hitting .250 (6 for 24) here. His career numbers in Toronto: .292, 27 HRs, 82 RBIs.

Caught in crossfire

A report in yesterday's New York Post said that Yankee closer Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth inning Sunday night in Fenway Park after being struck on his pitching elbow by an errant warmup toss thrown by Sox reliever Eric Gagné in the bullpen. "It came in hot," Yankees reliever Ron Villone told the Post. "He couldn't feel his arm; it was numb. We were in the bullpen saying, 'Oh no.' " Rivera told reporters yesterday that the ball hit him in his right hand and bruised his pinky. Gagné was aware that there was a wild pitch out of the Sox pen, but he said he didn't throw it; he said it was Devern Hansack, who was warming up alongside him. Gagné did not know that the ball had struck Rivera. "It wasn't me," he said. After allowing a double to Aubrey Huff, Rivera earned his 29th save last night, striking out Melvin Mora with runners at second and third in the ninth inning of the Yankees' 8-5 victory over the Orioles.

Youkilis isn't close

Kevin Youkilis did not play last night - Eric Hinske started at first base for the second straight game - as he continues to recover from being hit in the right wrist by a pitch from New York's Chien-Ming Wang. It doesn't look as though he'll be back soon. "He's got that bruise and he's battling a couple of things," Francona said. "He's got a lot of swelling that's gone down to his thumb, which doesn't make anything feel better. He bruised the tendon, he got hit so hard. He's sore. We're not even to a point yet where he's going to start trying to do some mild exercises. It's his throwing hand and it's his top hand, so he got hit hard." Francona said that Bobby Kielty and rookie Brandon Moss could play first base in a pinch. Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus said he spoke with a scout after Youkilis was hit. "Other guys throw harder [than Wang]," Carroll quoted the scout as saying, "but all those sinker guys now, like [Brandon] Webb and [Fausto] Carmona, man, when those hit you, it feels like you dropped a bag of lead on it."

A tub full of laughs

Daisuke Matsuzaka shared some laughs with Japanese reporters regarding his dressing as a Teletubby as part of the team's hazing of rookies Sunday night. The newcomers were all decked out, including Jacoby Ellsbury, who was outfitted as Little Red Riding Hood. "I didn't think there was much that could make me laugh last night, but there was," Francona said. "Watching Daisuke going through the security, it was hard not to laugh. Just sitting back there in the back - players always go first - and I'm looking at Daisuke and I'm thinking, 'Somebody wrote a check for $102 million and he's going through the line as a rodent?' And he was so funny about it. He would, like, get somebody's attention, you could see he was having a hard time not laughing. Like, he looked like he was half-embarrassed. He was funny. And the way guys handle those types of nights help the team."

Cash in

Kevin Cash caught Tim Wakefield last night, as Francona elected to bypass Doug Mirabelli, not wanting him to aggravate his strained left hamstring. Mirabelli had not played in the last 10 games until inserted as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning last night . . . J.D. Drew was happy to report that his toddler son, Jack, is no longer wearing the chest-to-ankle body cast that he had on for six weeks, after surgery to correct developmental displacement of his hips. The child must wear a leg brace for another six weeks, Drew said, and his legs are still very tender and slow to regain their normal functions . . . Ellsbury said his left knee "obviously is sore" after he was hit by a Rivera pitch Sunday night, but he was in the starting lineup last night and went 2 for 4. "I've got two of them," Ellsbury said with a smile. "I'll be all right." If you missed it last week, Ellsbury explained why he wears a sleeve on his left arm, and not on his right: "I started doing it in Portland, just to keep my arm warm. I've never played baseball where it was so consistently cold for the first month. We had a foot and a half of snow the first couple of weeks. It's just a sleeve, not a shirt. It felt comfortable for me, so it just became part of my daily routine in Portland and continued in Pawtucket."

Chase scene

Hinske said he was not amused by the spectator who ran onto the field at Fenway Sunday night and sprinted after him from first to second base on his double in the seventh inning. "Did it scare me? I don't know," Hinske said. "I didn't want to get knifed or something." The Sox brought charges against the spectator . . . Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus, hobbled by foot and leg ailments throughout the season, including plantar fasciitis, had surgery on his left foot . . . Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay will have a procedure next week to remove four screws from his hand. The screws were placed in Overbay's hand after his right pinky was broken in early June when he was hit by a pitch.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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