KANSAS CITY, Mo. - These are interesting times in the Red Sox organization.
There's the post-Manny fallout, or glow, if you will. There's David Ortiz indicating - and he acknowledges it's very early - that he's already feeling the effect of Manny Ramírez not being in the lineup to protect him. The team is scouting for bullpen reinforcements, closing in on an answer from former Indians closer Joe Borowski and sending Allard Baird to watch righthander Freddy Garcia, who is working out for teams tomorrow in Arizona.
Off the field, there's the embarrassment of the Red Sox having to dismiss Dominican scouting supervisor Pablo Lantigua, accused of skimming the signing bonuses of draft picks. The Sox are part of a larger MLB investigation, along with about a half-dozen other teams, according to ESPN.com. The Red Sox confirmed last night that Lantigua was dismissed for "violation of team policy," but did not elaborate.
The Dominican scouting scandal began in March when White Sox director of scouting Dave Wilder was stopped by US Customs officials in Miami for bringing a $40,000 check over the border. After an FBI investigation, it was learned that Wilder, along with a few White Sox international scouts, had been taking money from Dominican players and pocketing it. Wilder, who once interviewed for the Red Sox GM job, was fired.
The Yankees, White Sox, and Nationals appear to be the other teams being investigated, according to the report, and there may be more. The ESPN.com story also indicated that the investigation is heading into Venezuela, where many teams have academies for young prospects.
"It's just a shame," said a prominent Dominican player. "Who knows how long this has been going on? They say it's just recently but who knows? It might have gone on a long time and people have gotten away with it. It's taking advantage of very young, poor kids who have nothing. I can't think of anything worse that stealing from them."
Efforts to reach Lantigua last night were unsuccessful.
This comes after another Sox scout, Jesse Levis, was cited for indecent exposure at his hotel room while on a scouting assignment earlier this season. The team has not said how it dealt with Levis, but it doesn't appear that he is still employed by the organization.
The ESPN reports indicated that four MLB investigators are preparing a report for commissioner Bud Selig, who has gone after the wrongdoers very hard. ESPN's sources indicated that while MLB investigators have traveled to the Dominican, FBI agents have not, and that the FBI has limited its probe to Wilder, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, and Nationals special assistant Jose Rijo.
Bowden, a Weston, Mass., native, told ESPN that he has cooperated with investigators and is not guilty of any wrongdoing. It is not clear whether the other general managers of the teams involved - Ken Williams in Chicago, Brian Cashman in New York, Theo Epstein of the Red Sox - have been interviewed in the matter.
Beyond the legal issues, there are very important on-field issues as Boston attempts to fortify its team after the Ramírez deal.
To hear Ortiz tell it, he'll have to wait and see just how much he and the team will miss Ramírez's bat in the lineup.
"Manny was a cleanup hitter, so you don't get that everywhere," said Ortiz. "We're going to play and we're going to see what's happening. Hopefully we'll able to get around it and we'll continue to make adjustments.
"That's what we have to do now. There were a lot of things going on and Manny wanted to go, so now everybody is playing the game hard the way it's supposed to be, and I'm not saying that because Manny is gone. I think we're just going ahead and playing the game."
Too early to tell whether Ramírez's absence has affected his at-bats?
"Oh yeah, you watch the games," said Ortiz, who walked four times in the first three games after the trade. "We just have to make some adjustments. I've been walking like crazy the last three games. I haven't had too many pitches to hit."
On the pitching front, the Sox were not able to get a reliever when they acquired Jason Bay in the three-team swap. They didn't want Pirates lefty John Grabow, having reservations about how he would handle pitching in the AL East. If Brandon Moss hadn't gone in the Bay deal, he might have been used as bait to obtain Kansas City's Ron Mahay, who has had a terrific year and appears to be the type of lefty who could help the Sox.
The odds of acquiring a good pitcher are long, since many teams have similar needs and waiver deals might be difficult to make.
An AL executive said, "What you'll see is a veteran having a poor season who has a couple or three years left on his contract at big money. Those guys will get through waivers and then you have to determine if you want to burden yourself with the contract."
While the thought of Borowski makes many shudder, he would be only a protection-type pitcher. There were several teams interested in Borowski, but it seemed Boston had a good shot at landing him.
As for Garcia, the Sox are simply doing their due diligence. When they were scouting rehab pitchers, they found Bartolo Colon was farther ahead in his recovery than Garcia. Colon, who is scheduled to pitch two innings in Scranton for Pawtucket tonight, will be brought along slowly and eventually used as needed. Dave Aardsma is also on the way back.
Last night, the Sox started on an important seven-game road trip on which they get to test their new lineup. Ortiz, now the only pure power hitter in the lineup, has recovered nicely from a partially torn sheath in the left wrist. He thinks it has healed properly. Now the question is how successful will he be without the protection of Ramírez? Even he is anxious to find out.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org