Ramirez Arrives; Abreu Hurt; Rolen-La Russa Rift Over

Tuesday, February 27th 2007, 6:51 am
By: News On 6

Manny Ramirez is in camp with Boston, and Yankees slugger Bobby Abreu is out with an injury.

Ramirez reported to spring training Monday, four days late or three days early _ depending on who's keeping track. Either way, the Red Sox finally have him in uniform.

New York, meanwhile, will be without Abreu for at least two weeks because of a strained muscle on his right side. The right fielder got hurt during batting practice Monday in Tampa, Fla., but the Yankees still hope Abreu will be ready for opening day April 2.

``He had a significant oblique strain,'' general manager Brian Cashman said. ``I'll probably say three weeks, but we'll see. Worst case, it's one of those lengthy ones that gives him too short a period of time to get ready. But it's really premature to be guessing.''

Cashman and manager Joe Torre said Abreu's injury won't prompt the team to make a new push for outfielder Bernie Williams to come to camp.

``It's not an option we're looking at,'' Cashman said. ``Bobby is coming back. The question is when.''

The Yankees received encouraging news on pitcher Carl Pavano's left foot. An MRI exam and X-rays taken Sunday showed a bone bruise. Pavano was hit on the instep by a liner during batting practice Saturday.

``I wasn't too concerned,'' Pavano said. ``I was able to do all my activity today in the weight room. It's considerably better every day.''

Pavano is still scheduled to make his first spring training start Sunday.

``Obviously, if he doesn't throw enough to work into that day, we'll make adjustments,'' Torre said.

Center fielder Johnny Damon rejoined the Yankees after a two-day excused absence to tend to a personal matter at home with his family in the Orlando area.

``Everything is great,'' Damon said. ``I feel a lot better today than a couple days ago. Something was worrying me and I took care of it.''

Nobody at Red Sox camp in Fort Myers, Fla., sounded particularly annoyed by Ramirez's delayed arrival.

The unpredictable slugger drove up in a large, gray sedan with tinted windows four days after the team staged its first full-squad workout. But it was three days before the date the Red Sox gave him permission to show up because his mother had a health problem.

``I think we all would be very naive to think that if Manny wasn't the extraordinary hitter he was, that he'd get a little more leeway than the next guy,'' Boston third baseman Mike Lowell said. ``I think if you reach a point that you cross a line of integrity with your teammates, it will be felt. Four days into spring training, I don't really see it as that big a deal.''

Not surprisingly, the enigmatic Ramirez had a little trouble finding his way around. He took a wrong turn on his way to calisthenics and walked right into a crowd of fans by accident.

No problem for the happy-go-lucky hitter. Ramirez laughed and simply turned around, headed to the path he should have taken and joined his teammates on one of the practice fields.

``Manny reported early because he was ready to go. He's excited to be here in spring training,'' said his agent, Greg Genske. ``I do know that (Onelcida Ramirez) had very, very serious medical issues this offseason and that was the reason why Manny is reporting when he is.''

Ramirez, who rarely talks with reporters, refused several requests to do so.

At Jupiter, Fla., Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and third baseman Scott Rolen are talking again, and both agree the rift that began during the 2006 postseason is over.

The two shook hands last week outside La Russa's office at St. Louis' spring training complex. They had not spoken since the disagreement began.

``It's a dead issue,'' Rolen said Monday. ``It's healthy to be a dead issue. Walking around with a wall between you isn't very healthy for any relationship.''

La Russa said he never had an issue with Rolen, even as their deteriorating relationship was publicized during the Cardinals' run to the World Series title last October.

``There were some problems there when he didn't play,'' La Russa said. ``Scott gets treated the way he deserves to be treated, which is as an outstanding player, and is one of our leaders. I never had any issue with it. Never.''

The two shook hands Thursday, with general manager Walt Jocketty brokering a truce, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday.

``I just caught him in the hall the second day and said, `That's it, turn the page, let's just go play baseball,''' Rolen said.

At Mesa, Ariz., oft-injured Cubs pitcher Mark Prior was pushed up to start next Monday in a spring training game against Seattle. Only 24 hours earlier, Chicago manager Lou Piniella said the right-hander would not pitch until the second time through the rotation late next week.

Prior threw batting practice Sunday and responded well Monday morning, which apparently prompted the Cubs to accelerate his schedule. He said he'll throw another BP session Wednesday and then plans for his start against the Mariners.

``I've liked the way I've thrown the ball this spring,'' Prior said.

At Tucson, Ariz., Randy Johnson felt a little sore after throwing 35 pitches off a mound, but said that was normal for early in spring training.

It was Johnson's second session off a mound in his comeback from back surgery. He said the soreness was ``the residual effects from the first time out.''

``My back's a little stiff, the legs are stiff, arm's stiff,'' Johnson said.

At Scottsdale, Ariz., the San Francisco Giants said Barry Bonds will not play in the Cactus League opener Thursday against the Cubs _ to no one's surprise. The slugger rarely treks to road ballparks during the exhibition season.

At Kissimmee, Fla., Braves manager Bobby Cox said John Smoltz is likely to start the season opener April 2 in Philadelphia.