Ramirez, Youkilis work out on Monday

Ramirez and Youkilis work out

BOSTON -- The Red Sox might have been off on Monday, but two of the players essential to the stretch run were not.

Star slugger Manny Ramirez, who has missed the last 24 games with a strained left oblique, stepped on to the Fenway field for an off-day workout which included roughly an hour of batting practice.

First baseman Kevin Youkilis, who has been out of the lineup for seven straight games with a right wrist contusion, hit for nearly 45 minutes.

Both players took their swings against bench coach Brad Mills.

Manager Terry Francona characterized the workout as "good" for both players, but he wouldn't say if either would be in the lineup on Tuesday night, when the Red Sox open their final homestand of the season against the Oakland Athletics.

As of Sunday, Francona didn't sound confident that Youkilis would play on Tuesday.

"I'd love for him to play," Francona said. "I don't know if it's [realistic] or not. I would say probably not."

Ramirez has been making progress of late, particularly on Saturday, when he was able to run with less pain than before.

The Red Sox hold a two-game lead in the American League East against the Yankees. Without the services of Ramirez and Youkilis -- who have combined for 167 RBIs in 2007 -- the Red Sox have been hard-pressed to score runs of late.

Lefty reliever Hideki Okajima has also been out of the mix since Sept. 15 because of some physical issues the team has not been specific about. Okajima is expected to pitch again on Thursday night, when the Red Sox open a four-game series against the Twins.

"If you're going to sit a guy, you want him to come back and be the guy you want," Francona said Sunday. "Sometimes you have to bite the bullet a little bit."

The Red Sox clinched a postseason berth with Saturday night's win against Tampa Bay. Their magic number for clinching the AL East is down to five.

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