Notes: Manny's season might be over

Notes: Manny's season might be over

BALTIMORE -- There are few things Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez enjoys more than playing in Yankee Stadium, the venue he grew up mere blocks from and has hit 24 homers at in his career. But Ramirez's family and friends will be disappointed this weekend, as the star slugger is all but certain to remain out of the lineup with patella tendinitis in his right knee.

In fact, Red Sox manager Terry Francona threw out the possibility that Ramirez might not play again in 2006.

"I do think it's a possibility," said Francona. "I talked to Manny, probably for a while. I hope that's not the case. It might have to be the case. Again, if he sits another week ... you try to balance winning every game you can and using common sense."

The Red Sox have only 16 games left in their season and their postseason hopes are faint to say the least.

"I talked about it with [team medical director] Dr. [Thomas] Gill," Francona said. "The one thing he needs is rest. If he plays, that's not rest. He was very open and I was appreciative. He"s been like that all year with me. We'll do the best we can, like we do with everybody."

Ramirez has started just seven of the last 22 games. Francona was asked if there was a fear that Ramirez's condition could become chronic.

"I certainly hope not," Francona said. "He said that, not only when he runs, but when he tries to get into his balanced point hitting, it's not really feeling a lot better yet."

Even if Ramirez rests for the rest of the season, he'll finish with numbers that almost any player in baseball would take. The right-handed masher is hitting .318 with 34 homers and 101 RBIs.

Papelbon encouraged: Perhaps the best bit of news from Thursday was how well closer Jonathan Papelbon is feeling 13 days after being shut down with a transient subluxation of his right shoulder.

"Good, he's doing real good," Francona said. "In fact, he told me yesterday that if things were different, 'I could pitch today,' which was good to hear. I think, probably some time in New York, he'll start to play catch again."

However, Francona was no closer to saying whether Papelbon would pitch again this season.

"We'll get back home and he'll get examined," Francona said. "The doctors, there's a lot of things they could say. 'Let him gear up, but don't pitch him.' They could say, 'Gear him up and pitch him.' Or they could say, 'Stay away from him.' We'll do whatever we're supposed to. I like the idea that at least he feels good and he's going to start throwing. That's good news."

Playing Pedroia: With Ramirez out of the mix, Francona has sometimes used it as a chance to play Kevin Youkilis in left and Mark Loretta at first. The benefit of that is that it's opened up second base for Dustin Pedroia, the prospect the Red Sox are trying to get a better read on entering next season.

"I want to get every look I can [and] we can," said Francona. "At the same time, want to try to run a lineup out there that can win a game. We're a little banged up. And I know Youk can handle playing left, and I know Loretta can handle playing first. But I do like the idea of trying to get Pedroia as many at-bats as we can."

Though Francona knows better than to evaluate September stats, he thinks that there's a certain amount of game experience that has been invaluable for Pedroia.

"For instance, there's a couple of mistakes he makes that you help [fix]," Francona said. "He's already, on two double plays, come off the bag. That won't happen when he shows up next year. You try to get a read on him, OK, where is this player at in his development, how can we further that development -- things like that."

Coming up: The Red Sox will send right-hander Josh Beckett (14-10, 5.09 ERA) to the mound in Friday night's 7:05 ET opener of a four-game series against the Yankees, who counter with Chien-Ming Wang (17-5, 3.60 ERA).

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