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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: ANGELS VS. BOSTON : RED SOX FYI

They haven't missed Ramirez

October 01, 2008|Kevin Baxter and Mike Digiovanna | Times Staff Writers

By their own admission, the Boston Red Sox were a confused and distracted team four months into the regular season.

Then on the final day of July they dealt their main distraction, outfielder Manny Ramirez, to the Dodgers, getting Jason Bay from the Pittsburgh Pirates in return in a three-team trade.

Everybody knows what that trade meant to the Dodgers, who rallied behind Ramirez to win the National League West. But the deal may have saved Boston's season as well since the Red Sox won nearly 65% of their games after the trade to earn the American League's wild-card playoff berth.

"When the trade went down, there was a lot of confusion. You didn't know what was going to happen," said first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "But once that was all over, it was all gone. It didn't affect players during the game. Nobody was wondering, when you're up at the plate, whether Manny was going to get traded."

Ramirez helped forced the deal by refusing to play hard as the trade deadline neared, leading former teammate Curt Schilling to say Ramirez's "level of disrespect to teammates and people was unfathomable."

Youkilis tried to distance himself from that thinking Tuesday when he said the timing of the Red Sox's surge and Ramirez's trade weren't necessarily linked.

"That's what I'm getting right now. Everyone wants to know is there an answer why after Manny changed [teams], that we [won]," he said. "There's no answer there. We're a good team. We were a good team with Manny. We're a good team without Manny. That's the bottom line. One player does not make a team."

Added captain Jason Varitek: "People need to understand, Manny wasn't hurtful in our clubhouse as much as it was a situation that needed to come to an end, and I think it was going to, either way, at the trade deadline."

But, Varitek and others added, the addition of Bay has been a positive.

"We've added a few [players] that are good baseball players and good teammates," he said.

"Now we've got 25 guys," added second baseman Dustin Pedroia, "heading in the right direction."

More Manny

There's no doubt the loss of Ramirez, who was hitting .299 with 20 homers and 68 RBI when he was traded, has changed the Red Sox's lineup. Just don't assume the change was for the worse.

"We played as a team," Pedroia, a solid MVP candidate, said when asked how things changed over the season's final two months. "We weren't relying on one or two guys. We weren't relying on a three-run homer in the seventh or eighth inning.

"We were trying to find a way to score a run, whether it's bunting a guy over, stealing a base, doing the little things. And we've played great defense since Jason came over. We're playing the game a little bit differently. We're scoring runs in different ways."

Pain and confusion

The deadline for setting rosters for the division series is 10 a.m. today. But as of Tuesday evening the Red Sox were still unsettled on the makeup of their team.

Confusing matters is the health of three key players, third baseman Mike Lowell, outfielder J.D. Drew and pitcher Josh Beckett.

Lowell, bothered by a torn labrum in his right hip that will require off-season surgery, took more than two dozen easy grounders at third Tuesday afternoon, and though he appeared to be having trouble moving, Manager Terry Francona was pleased with the workout.

"I actually thought Mikey Lowell looked really good," Francona said.

Drew, limited to two games since Aug. 17 because of a bad back, had a good workout Tuesday for the second consecutive day and declared himself ready.

And Beckett, who was scratched from tonight's series opener because of a strained muscle in his right side, threw off flat ground Tuesday, will throw again today and is scheduled for a bullpen session Thursday.

He is penciled in to start Game 3 Sunday at Fenway Park in Boston.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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