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Ramirez stories come out of left field

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / June 18, 2010

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When the long dreadlocks and the wacky personality reappear in Fenway Park tonight, there will be mixed emotions. There will be, as Mike Cameron said, “cheers and jeers’’ for a man who helped bring two championships to Boston, and yet left on as sour a note as anyone in recent memory.

He forced his way out of Boston, and that doesn’t usually go over well in New England.

Yet, as much anger as there is in Boston regarding Manny Ramirez, and as much gratitude as there is, it is clear that even his former teammates aren’t quite sure how the weekend will go, how Ramirez will be received, how he will greet them, what will be going through his head.

“I don’t know if he would remember that I’m the manager,’’ Terry Francona said.

Said David Ortiz, “I haven’t talked to him in a while. I even had problems talking to Manny when Manny was here. I don’t know what was going on. It was fun.

“But you see him just like you’ve seen him every day. He’s got the same love for everyone, that crazy attitude that everyone knows. I think it’s going to be cool seeing him again.’’

As the questions were asked of Ortiz, the object of attention flashed on the clubhouse television. There was Ramirez walking off the field after an at-bat in Cincinnati, where the Dodgers played yesterday before heading east to face the Red Sox. Ramirez will be with them, slated for the designated hitter spot over the weekend in the interleague matchup in Boston.

“I’ll be kind of curious,’’ Mike Lowell said. “I’ll be out there when they announce his name and see what transpires. His offensive numbers were great. But I’m sure for some people, his approach to other things was less than desired. I guess it’s a big wait-and-see.’’

Ortiz, for one, voted for more cheers than boos. But given the way Ramirez left, that might be hard to swallow for the packed house expected tonight.

“Manny is a little bit of a different breed,’’ J.D. Drew said. “He’s got his own little characteristics and he can be one of the greatest players at times, and other times, you kind of scratch your head. He’s a unique character, that’s for sure.’’

In honor of his arrival, a few of his former teammates shared their most memorable Manny moment from his time in Boston.

Francona said, “A lot happened. Great hitter. Did some remarkable things on the field. Sometimes, especially early, there were times when he would make an out, and I would sit there and think, ‘How did he make an out?’ That’s not fair. But he was so good, and so dangerous, that sometimes when he made the out, you would say, that’s not fair. That’s how good he was.’’

Ortiz said, “I remember one of the best lines from Manny was when he said, ‘It’s not the end of the world’ [in Cleveland during the 2007 ALCS]. And we ended up winning that year. So that tells you that there’s no way you can put pressure on the guy.

“He knows how to figure things out. Everybody had a way to do things and a different way to react with things. This guy, I never saw him panic. It’s hard to be like that, but that’s a gift. That’s what makes him so good.’’

Lowell said, “What’s memorable was that home run off Francisco Rodriguez [to win Game 2 of the 2007 Division Series]. I was on deck and you kind of think along the same lines. Basically, you would have bet the house that he was going to throw a slider and he threw a fastball in. Manny was on it and basically hit it over the lights. When he’s locked in, I don’t think anybody can dominate him at the plate.’’

Change is coming
The Sox will need to make a roster move to make room for tonight’s starter, Felix Doubront. It seems likely to be either Scott Atchison or Dustin Richardson . . . Daniel Nava turned in another impressive performance with three hits (two doubles). He scored two runs and drove in one. “He’s given us a big lift,’’ Francona said. “He’s had really quality at-bats. And he went out tonight and looked a little bit more comfortable in left field. I think he and RJ [first base coach Ron Johnson] have worked the last couple days, which is good. He’s a little bit more familiar out there. But he swings at strikes, he stays inside the ball real well.’’ Said Nava, “I think I tried to make little adjustments with two strikes . . . tried to shorten it up, try to create less movement just so I can see the ball longer.’’ Nava is 8 for 18 in his five games in the majors . . . Darnell McDonald stole two bases in a game for the first time in his career.

Hooping it up
With the Celtics facing the Lakers last night in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, game time for the Sox was moved up an hour to 6:10 p.m., something the manager wholeheartedly endorsed. “I’m all for it,’’ said Francona. “I’d be all for this when the Celtics don’t play. I’d even do this for the hockey team.’’ Francona wasn’t the only one eager for the basketball game to start. Cameron, who grew up rooting for the Celtics in Georgia, was wearing a “Beat LA’’ shirt in the clubhouse before the game. “You get nervous,’’ Francona said, of watching the game as a fan. “Obviously we need to have our priorities in line, and win our game tonight, but when our game is over, I’m going to be very excited to watch this game. And how can you not be? It’s Game 7. To watch how people react? It’s really cool. I love it.’’ . . . Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a 40-pitch side session yesterday, a good sign as he rehabs from the right forearm strain that landed him on the disabled list. Francona said he isn’t eyeing Wednesday for a return for Matsuzaka, even though the pitcher is eligible to come off the DL that day. As Francona said, “I just want to see how he does.’’

Peter Abraham of the Globe contributed to this report.

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