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Notes: Manny gets rare night off

Notes: Manny gets rare night off

SEATTLE -- Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez was out of the lineup Tuesday night, but there were no red flags in sight. It was just part of manager Terry Francona's maintenance plan to keep the star left fielder in good working order.

Ramirez leads the Red Sox in games played at 73. With right-hander Felix Hernandez and his nasty arsenal of pitches on the mound for the Mariners, this was as good a day as any for Ramirez to take off.

"I thought about it [Monday]," said Francona. "I think Manny leads our team in games played. I didn't want to go too far. This way, he plays [Wednesday], then has a day off, go home. I think it works really well for him."

This was just the third time Ramirez has been out of the lineup this season.

"Manny is such a good hitter that you can come up with a million reasons not to ever give him a day off," said Francona.

Left-handed-hitting Eric Hinske got the start over Wily Mo Pena in left field and batted eighth. Kevin Youkilis moved to the cleanup spot. Coco Crisp led off, with J.D. Drew batting fifth.

"Hinske's taken some pretty good swings lately," said Francona. "He needs to get some at-bats anyway. To me, this is a decent time to do it."

Ramirez, who had recurring knee problems last season, has held up well thus far in 2007.

"He's been tremendous," Francona said. "Taking him out is the hardest thing. He's such a good hitter. It ends up not being fair to him all the time. Sometimes you make yourself do it."

Youkilis a record-setter: While most of New England was sleeping late Monday night, Youkilis broke an obscure -- yet impressive -- club record by playing his 120th consecutive game at first base without an error. The previous record was held by Stuffy McInnis, who went 119 games without an error for the Red Sox from May 31-Oct. 2 of the 1921 season.

Red Sox VP of media relations John Blake informed Youkilis of his milestone prior to Tuesday's game.

"I definitely take a lot of pride in defense," said Youkilis. "From what I've learned over the years, defense really wins ballgames. You might not have a good game hitting, but if you don't make the plays in the field, that could have a bigger affect on the ballgame a lot of times. To me, defense is something I try to get better at each day and try to make plays to help our pitchers out there battling."

Making his flawless first-base defense more impressive is that third base is the position Youkilis has played most of his life.

"For me, first base is more of a reaction thing," Youkilis said. "Right now, I just feel comfortable at first base over the past year."

Cora subs for Lugo: With Julio Lugo in an 0-for-29 slump that has brought his average down to .191, Francona inserted Alex Cora at shortstop on Tuesday. Lugo is likely to be back in there Wednesday when left-hander Ryan Feierabend pitches for Seattle.

"Again, Lugo is having such a tough time," Francona said. "[I'm] trying to do what's right, and I've got to tell you, that's not the easiest decision all the time. You look short term, long term, middle term. AC played a little bit for [Dustin] Pedroia earlier in the season when Pedroia was struggling. Now Lugo is going through a stretch where he's had a little bit of a tough time. I guess I look at it as, good thing we have Cora. It makes it easier when things like this do happen."

Lugo's frustration became evident Monday when he popped a ball up and didn't run it out.

"Oh yeah, he gives you effort down the line [usually]," Francona said. "That's frustration. That doesn't say it's [OK] ... it's not what you're looking for, but that's frustration."

Did Francona speak to the shortstop about it?

"What I do with the players is kind of our business," Francona said. "I'm never comfortable telling how we handle things like that or when. I don't think it's probably in our best interest. If you're asking me if I care about stuff like that, yeah."

Schilling update: It was another day of inside work for Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling. However, Francona indicated that Schilling's program might be ready for forward progress.

"Schill's program is getting worked on now," Francona said. "There's a protocol to go through now, which Mikey [Reinold] and the trainers are doing. Maybe tomorrow we'll have a little bit of an update."

Part of the future: Left-hander Nick Hagadone, Boston's first selection in this year's First-Year Player Draft, came to Safeco Field on Tuesday and met Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Beckett and some other Red Sox players during the pregame hours. Hagadone soaked it all in, watching just about all of batting practice from behind the cage.

The Red Sox are close to signing the southpaw out of the University of Washington, who was a former college teammate of Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum.

Hagadone indicated he will report to Class A (short-season) Lowell once he signs.

"I was watching it on TV last night, and now I got to meet them," said Hagadone. "It just makes me look forward for when I get to play here some day. I'm very excited. It's been three weeks since the Draft. We're close and confident that it's going to happen soon. I can't wait to get to Lowell and get my career started."

Coming up: Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-5, 4.01 ERA) will face Ichiro Suzuki and the Mariners for the third time this season when he closes this three-game series on Wednesday afternoon. The Mariners counter with Feierabend, who is 1-2 with an 8.20 ERA.

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

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