Notes: Manny trying to find groove

Notes: Manny trying to find groove

BOSTON -- The hitting machine known as Manny Ramirez is trying to uncover some early season glitches that prevented the All-Star cleanup man from so much as an extra-base hit in his first 32 at-bats.

Ramirez entered Friday night's contest against the Mariners with uncharacteristically underwhelming numbers (.219 average, two RBIs and 11 strikeouts).

With Ramirez, of course, it figures to be only a matter of time before he breaks out and puts the offense on his back for a few weeks.

But until then, he'll spend the post-batting practice moments much like he did on Friday -- taking more batting practice in the tunnel behind the Boston dugout.

"I think he's been looking at his hands, where they are, pre-pitch," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He did the same thing last year. Sometimes coming out of the gate, you just lose your comfort zone for whatever reason. He'll get it."

For whatever reason, Ramirez has been a slow starter the last couple of years, though his career April numbers heading into this season (.325 average, 68 homers and 246 RBIs) weren't too shabby.

"Maybe he's trying to hit home runs or do too much," said Red Sox hitting coach Ron Jackson. "I think once he starts hitting the ball up the middle and to all fields, that'll take care of itself."

Friday was a promising night for Ramirez to break out of it, considering he came into the contest with a .364 average with nine homers and 18 RBIs in his career against Mariners starter Jamie Moyer.

When Ramirez is on his game, he is a virtual instructional video for hitting dominance.

"When you do get out front a little bit, then your hands kind of come with you," said Francona. "When he's good, they don't budge. He gets so much leverage. The ball goes a lot farther than it should for a man of his size because of his leverage. He'll be fine. It won't take long. He'll get one good swing, the one that clicks, and he'll be OK. I'll bet you they're still not excited when he comes to the plate."

Nixon getting there: Right fielder Trot Nixon, who strained his left groin on Tuesday, is progressing well and should return to the lineup within a few days.

Nixon did some running before Friday's game.

"He had a good day," said Francona. "He went out and did some movement on the field. He did pretty well. Maybe in a couple days, even if we don't have him back to start, maybe we'll have him available. So he's doing OK. The trainers thought it was real good. He passed all his tests pretty well."

Rotating players: Francona plans on resting second baseman Mark Loretta and third baseman Mike Lowell for Saturday afternoon's contest. Kevin Youkilis will move from first to third. J.T. Snow will start at first base and Alex Cora will get the call at second base. Cora will also get a start at shortstop in the near future, and Snow is likely to start Monday's game.

Saturday will snap a string of three straight days in which the Sox faced a left-handed starter. With Nixon still not ready for action, Wily Mo Pena figures to get another start in right field.

Adam Stern will get the nod in center field after getting all three days off against southpaws.

Papi supports good cause: A few hours before Friday's game, it was hard to miss the sight of slugger David Ortiz, in full uniform, posing in front of the Green Monster with a group of kids.

As it turns out, Ortiz was taping a public service announcement for the Boys & Girls Club of America, which is the official charity of Major League Baseball.

The PSA will debut in May and be used by Major League Baseball in its national campaign for 2006.

Coming up: Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield takes the ball in Saturday's matinee (1:20 p.m. ET) against the Mariners. Seattle counters with right-hander Joel Pineiro.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.