Tavarez: Manny will report late; Francona not so sure

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The latest Manny Ramirez mystery
surfaced Monday when teammate Julian Tavarez said his close friend
would arrive late at spring training and Boston manager Terry Francona said that may not be true.

Manny Ramirez Ramirez

Tavarez said the left fielder would report March 1 as he did
last year when he received permission from the Red Sox to show up late.

The first workout of spring training for position players is set
for Thursday. The official reporting date under major league rules is Feb. 27.

"I spoke to Manny [Sunday] and he said he's going to be here
March 1," said Tavarez, a reliever who joined the Red Sox before
last season. "He's been going through a tough time because his
mom, you know, they told him that she had a tumor.

"He doesn't think about anybody. There's only one human being in Manny's life. That's Manny. Manny doesn't know there's many humans in the world."
-- Julian Tavarez

"It wasn't a tumor. She had surgery in between those ribs.
She's at home right now recovering and Manny's there with his mom.
He's working out," Tavarez said. "Nobody believes that, but it's
the truth about his mom. That's really true."

He said Ramirez was with his mother in Weston, near Miami, about
a two-hour drive east of Fort Myers.

"The way he sounded [Sunday], he's laughing a lot. I don't know
if that's because his mom's home and he's happy," Tavarez said. "He said, 'Hang in there. I'll be there the first.' "

Ramirez requested trades the past two offseasons, but Francona
said on Feb. 6, "I think he's OK. I don't think there's any problem."

On Monday, Francona was reluctant to comment on Tavarez's remarks.

"That's unfair because I haven't talked to [Ramirez]. There's a
lot of, 'he said, she said,' that I'm not too sure is true,"
Francona said. "If somebody calls me and tells me something
happens, it's easier for me to comment than on his publicist [or]
Julian, saying this."

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and Ramirez's agent, Greg
Genske, did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.

The team and Ramirez have had a sometimes bumpy relationship
since he signed an eight-year, $160 million contract before the
2001 season.

He has complained about a lack of privacy, requested trades and
been placed on waivers with no takers. In the last six weeks of
last season, he played in just 11 games, raising speculation that
he wasn't badly hurt. The team said he had tendinitis in his right knee.

Still, he batted .321 with 34 homers and 102 RBIs in 130 games.
In his career with Boston, he is hitting .316 with averages of 39
homers and 119 RBIs.

"Manny's really prepared for things he does, play ball, and
he's worked hard in the offseason. He always shows up in good
shape," Tavarez said. "He's still going to put up 100 RBI, 40
home runs and hit .300. That's a natural player right there."

He said he lives about 10 minutes from Ramirez and wouldn't be
surprised if the team didn't know of Ramirez's reporting plans.

"He doesn't keep in touch with anybody but me," Tavarez said.

Last season, Ramirez also reported on March 1, six days after
the first full team workout and one day after the major league
reporting date. Six days later, he singled in his first at-bat in
an exhibition game. Boston's first exhibition game this season is
March 1 against Northeastern University.

When Ramirez arrived last year, he declined several
opportunities to say he's happy to still be with the team.

"Manny's going to be happy anywhere he goes. He doesn't want to
leave Boston. It's a great city to play ball. He knows that,"
Tavarez said. "I tell him every time, he has to give something for
you [reporters] to talk about.

"He doesn't deal with the media, so he's got to do things to
bring Manny's name [up]. It doesn't make Manny crazy. It's just
Manny being Manny," Tavarez added. "He doesn't think about
anybody. There's only one human being in Manny's life. That's
Manny. Manny doesn't know there's many humans in the world."

No matter what issues surround him, Ramirez always produces on
the field. So Francona didn't rush to comment with the regular
season still six weeks away.

"We all know how this works," Francona said. "It gets legs
and we'll end up wasting time. If there's ever a need to talk about
anything with our team, I'll be happy to do it. I just think it's
very premature."