<
>

Ortiz hopes Ramirez trade not in Boston's future

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Manny Ramirez should
stay with the Boston Red Sox, teammate and fellow Dominican slugger
David Ortiz said Thursday.

Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein said earlier in the day the
team would talk about trading the disgruntled outfielder during
baseball's winter meetings in Florida.

Speaking at the Red Sox Academy near Santo Domingo, Ortiz said
he hoped there weren't really plans to do so.

"I hope not, you know. Manny is a very important person to the
team," Ortiz said in Spanish.

Ortiz spoke to reporters and Red Sox trainees from the Dominican
Republic and around Latin America while dedicating a new batting
cage named in his honor.

A Red Sox executive also praised Ramirez for the mostly
Dominican crowd, many of whom hope to follow him and Ortiz into the
majors.

"Without David, without Manny, we don't win the World Series,"
Executive Vice President Charles Steinberg said in halting Spanish,
flashing the team's 2004 championship ring.

Ortiz was excited about the prospect of the Red Sox signing
shortstop Julio Lugo, who he called "my brother and my friend,"
as well as outfielder J.D. Drew.

The Red Sox reached preliminary agreements Tuesday on a $70
million, five-year contract with Drew and a $36 million, four-year
deal with Lugo.

Ortiz said he was withholding judgment on Daisuke Matsuzaka, the
ace Japanese pitcher for whom Boston bid $51.1 million just for
negotiating rights.

"I've heard he's a good pitcher, but we're bigger over here,"
Ortiz joked.

Earlier in the day, Ortiz presented a check for $200,000 to a
Santo Domingo hospital's pediatric cardiology wing.