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February 22, 2006

Mysterious Manny strikes again

Slugger won’t report until March 1

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston’s loss is Juan Carlos Santana’s gain.

The Red Sox announced Tuesday that Manny Ramirez will not arrive at spring training until March 1, missing Wednesday's scheduled reporting date for all position players. It also was learned that once Ramirez arrives at City of Palms Park, he will be slated to stay there throughout the month of March, choosing not to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

The news sent Red Sox fans into a tailspin, wondering how this latest hint of dysfunction was going to affect the team’s cleanup hitter and his teammates.

Could the perceived laissez-faire lifestyle of Ramirez actually survive another week outside the structure of spring training? The Red Sox say he would be “completing an extensive training regimen.” But is that just another public relations smoke screen?

Santana, Ramirez’s personal trainer for the past five years, has a different viewpoint.

“I can guarantee you. Guarantee you!” exclaimed the 47-year-old Santana on whether Ramirez is better served at his current location, the Institute of Human Performance in Boca Raton, than Fort Myers. “I’ll bet my house with my children inside that there is nobody putting their baseball players through what we’re putting our baseball players through. No doubt about it. Believe me, most of those who come through here are begging for spring practice. This is nasty here.”

The image portrayed by Santana isn’t easily accepted by the outfielder’s critics, who insist that his laid-back attitude does more harm than good.

But the man who was voted among the top 100 personal trainers in the nation by Men’s Journal wants to set the minds of Sox fans at ease. Manny, he says, will be ready.

“He wants the MVP this year in the worst way,” said Santana, who assigns Andy DeRojas to work specifically with Ramirez. “The one thing people don’t know about Manny, and that Manny doesn’t get enough credit for, is his work ethic. He is one of the hardest workers, most deliberate guys that I have here. He shows up. And when he shows up, it is game time and he gives you everything he’s got.”

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