Manny decides not to attend car auction

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Manny Ramirez changed plans and will not attend a car auction in New Jersey on Saturday while his Boston Red Sox teammates work out at spring training, the team said Thursday.

The Red Sox gave Ramirez permission to report late to camp on March 1, the day after their first exhibition game, for family reasons. The left fielder's mother recently had surgery.

Boston general manager Theo Epstein said that after learning about Ramirez's scheduled appearance at the auction, he spoke Wednesday night with Greg Genske, the slugger's agent.

"He said [Ramirez] is not going to be there, so it's fine," Epstein said Thursday. "He's dealing with a family issue. We're not going to document his exact whereabouts on an hour-to-hour basis."

Louise Cunningham, who works for G. Potter King, the Berlin, N.J., car dealer promoting the auction, told The Associated Press on Wednesday night that Ramirez was still expected at the event in Atlantic City. On Thursday, the company did not return calls seeking comment.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that when he spoke with Genske and Ramirez on Tuesday night, the car auction was not discussed. Francona also said he wasn't concerned that Ramirez would make plans to be at a car show during spring training.

"I don't think I can let it concern me that he might have, or he allegedly, or somebody wrote it. That's not a very productive way for me to manage the club," Francona said.

Epstein said he didn't think the auction would be a distraction, "if we manage it the right way."

"Manny certainly intends to be here as soon as he can and get ready for the season. So I think it's not the biggest deal in the world, provided he's here March 1, or even earlier if his mother's situation resolves itself," the GM said.

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino also showed little concern about Ramirez's previous plans to be at the auction.

"I think it's a stale issue," he told reporters. "You guys are making a tempest in a teapot."

Ramirez collects classic cars. His 1967 four-door Lincoln Continental Sedan convertible is listed in Saturday's auction as number 1747A. In parentheses on the auction list is a note: Owned by Manny Ramirez.

Baseball's collective bargaining agreement gives teams the right to penalize players who report to camp after Feb. 27, but Epstein said the team won't discipline Ramirez.

"We can give a player permission to show up late for certain instances, and family always comes first in this organization and will continue to," Epstein said.

The Red Sox are used to Ramirez's unusual behavior.

The slugger asked to be traded after the last two seasons and was the subject of trade talks at the July 31 deadline in 2005. He also missed most of the final six weeks last season with what the team called right knee tendinitis. There was speculation he was physically able to play.

Ramirez is scheduled to make $18 million this season, the seventh of his eight-year, $160 million contract. In each if his previous six seasons with the Red Sox, he had at least 33 homers and 102 RBIs.