Pedroia: Red Sox's titles not tarnished

BOSTON -- Manny Ramirez hit cleanup on the Red Sox's two championship teams this decade. Some of his teammates on those clubs say his suspension for using a banned substance won't tarnish those titles.

"Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but I don't feel like our '07 season was tainted," Mike Lowell said Thursday night. "This is still a 25-man team."

Ramirez was MVP of Boston's World Series sweep of St. Louis that gave the Red Sox their first championship in 86 years in 2004. He also had one of his best seasons that year, hitting .308 with 43 homers and 130 RBIs.

"It's not like we wouldn't be the world champions if, whatever this is that's going on," 2008 AL MVP Dustin Pedroia said. "I don't think it tarnishes any of that stuff."

On Thursday, Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for violating baseball's performance-enhancing drug policy. Several Red Sox players said they didn't know if he used such substances when he played for Boston from 2001 until he was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trading deadline last July.

"I have no idea," said Lowell, the MVP of the 2007 World Series against Colorado. "He's a phenomenal hitter and I never saw anything, so I defer to asking Manny that question."

Pedroia, generously listed at 5 feet 9 and 180 pounds, was one of several teammates who said they were surprised by the positive test.

"That's the furthest thing you think of," he said. "I worked out with him at the beginning of '08 and I know his work ethic and he knows what to put into his body, the good things. It's a little shocking."

With Ramirez gone, the impact on the Red Sox wasn't as strong as it might have been.

"He's not in our clubhouse anymore so this is something that we're not even worried about," closer Jonathan Papelbon said.

It is another blow for baseball following the links to banned substances of Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and other stars.

"Another big-name guy," Lowell said of Ramirez. "It's just another black eye for the game. ... It's hard for Major League Baseball to try to glorify guys that they think are doing it right because we don't know.

"We keep finding these guys [using banned substances] and I think the message is terrible, especially for young kids who might aspire to be major league baseball players."

Several players were reluctant at first to discuss Ramirez's suspension.

"No comment about Manny," David Ortiz, who hit one spot in front of Ramirez in the lineup, said. Then, he relented and said he was surprised and sad for Ramirez.

The Red Sox traded Ramirez in a three-team deal that brought them Jason Bay as Ramirez's replacement in left field.

"I got drug tested the other day and I worry about everything that goes in [his body]," Bay said.

He is Boston's top power hitter this year and knows that suspensions and positive tests raise suspicions about sluggers even if they haven't used banned substances.

"Everybody is under that cloud with the way things have gone. I really don't know how you're going to combat that," he said.

Players receive a list of banned substances and can send a sample of any supplement to major league baseball for testing if they question its contents, Bay said.

Ortiz said "you've definitely got to be careful" but the list of banned substances given to players is "a little confusing."

Papelbon disagreed.

"It's really easy, actually," he said. "They make a pamphlet for you in Spanish and English and you just read it and you know what not to take."

Lowell is baffled that a player, knowing he will be tested, would risk using a substance that could be banned.

"I don't understand why now anyone would even come close to taking anything that could remotely result in a positive test," he said.

Might it be stupidity?

"I would lean toward that," Lowell said.