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Manny mania

Posted by Gordon Edes, Globe Staff  February 26, 2007 02:08 PM

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Things are finally quieting down here today. Manny left about an hour ago... as expected, he did not speak with reporters, and has given no indication that he intends to do so. Last year, he spoke once at the start of camp, and that was it. That, of course, is his prerogative, though it leaves many questions unanswered.

I have received a few e-mails questioning the tone of the interview with Manny's agents. I did not identify the questioners in the transcript I sent. I would agree that a couple of the questions were not fair-minded, and may have reflected too much of the questioner's personal opinion, but in general I believe the questions were appropriate.

Manny surprised everyone by jumping into live BP against Travis Hughes and Dice-K, though he just looked at three pitchers from the Japanese righthander. His agents tell me that for the first time Manny hit during the offseason, beginning back on Dec 1. He was working out at a place called Perfect Competition in Davie, near his Ft. Lauderdale-area home. He also has signed a shoe contract with Nike, a one-year deal, after having been with Reebok.

What to think of the auto show commitment? People close to Manny tell me he probably did say he would be there, because he doesn't say no to anyone. His agents insist he never intended to be there.

David Ortiz passed on doing a post-practice session out in front of the TV cameras. I suspect he didn't want to be grilled on Manny. He answered some questions at his locker, said it didn't bother him that Manny reported after everyone else, and said he was interested in "keeping it real.''

Terry Francona, still suffering from flu symptoms, made today's workout. He said he didn't know when he might use Manny in games, but probably wouldn't right out of the chute. While hoping to use most of his regular lineup Wednesday against the Twins--"it's for the Mayor's Cup, after all" he said--he thought he'd probably keep three or four regulars out because the team is scheduled to play twice on Thursday, including a game in Dunedin.

"We got everybody here now--that's good,'' he said of Manny's arrival in camp. "I'm more concerned with the 120 RBIs.''

Francona said he didn't believe Manny's absence was a distraction, and that players here had a lot of experience with these things and wouldn't allow it to be. He did seem to make a point of noting, however, that Manny was "the only guy in baseball" who did not report with his teammates--that may not be true, but I can't think of another superstar who didn't report when his team expected him. He said that the game is not just about numbers. "We're trying to form a team here.''

The Manny business almost made Dice-K an afterthought. He threw at what he said was 75-80 percent of maximum effort during a 12-minute BP session in which a ground ball through the right side by Ortiz was the closest thing to look like a hit. Dice-K pitched from the stretch the entire time. he said afterward that he is working on a two-seamer here but hasn't decided whether he'd use one in a game.

Ortiz said he had good stuff "but we haven't played yet, let's see. Come to me right after he pitches in a game, and I'll tell you what I see.''

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