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Guillen uncertain about Manny's status

Guillen uncertain about Manny's status

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CHICAGO -- On the Fourth of July, Boston manager Terry Francona basically declared outfielder Manny Ramirez's independence from his starting role as part of the American League outfield for Tuesday's All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. In fact, Francona made it clear that the AL's leading vote-getter was all but certain not to participate because of nagging right knee soreness.

Later that same day, Magglio Ordonez told the Detroit Free Press that Ozzie Guillen had called him and basically extended an All-Star invitation.

One day later, Guillen, the White Sox manager who also is running the show for the first time in the All-Star Game, still had heard nothing official concerning Ramirez's status.

"It goes back and forth," Guillen said Wednesday. "They tell me, 'Yes,' they tell me, 'No.' They just called me. Officially, he's on the ballclub. They're going to wait until I think Friday to make an announcement.

"One day [Ramirez] says, 'Yes,' one day he says, 'No,' so we don't know yet. It's up to Manny. If Manny can play, that's fine. If he's hurt, what's he going to do in the game? I have to wait officially to see what's going on."

Guillen once again made clear that if Ramirez can't play, Ordonez will be his replacement. According to Guillen, he placed a call to Ordonez on Tuesday and told him to be prepared.

Reuniting Guillen and Ordonez on the same team should be somewhat interesting, after they were together as manager and player just one year during Ordonez's injury-plagued 2004 season. Guillen also had harsh words for Ordonez through the media early last year, but the brief feud has since been settled and Guillen said weeks ago that he would be happy to have another fellow Venezuelan on the American League team.

"The way Magglio is playing, he earned the spot," said Guillen of Ordonez, who is hitting .307 with 15 home runs and 59 RBIs for the first-place Tigers.

Ramirez's potential absence also would present Guillen with a replacement to make in the AL starting lineup. He said Wednesday that the new starter most likely would be either Toronto's Vernon Wells (.314, 20 HR, 62 RBIs) or the White Sox Jermaine Dye (.317, 21, 58). Wells could have the edge as a true center fielder, flanked by Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki and the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero.

A little more light also was shed on Guillen's plan for the AL starting pitcher. Guillen plans to talk with Detroit manager Jim Leyland over the next day or two in order to gauge Kenny Rogers' availability and interest in filling that role. Rogers picked up the victory in Detroit's 10-4 win at Oakland on Wednesday, leaving the left-hander tied with Toronto's Roy Halladay and the Mets' Tom Glavine for the Major League lead in victories at 11.

Rogers also is done with his first-half starts, which certainly is not the case for Guillen's other possibilities. Mark Buehrle opens a three-game weekend set against the Red Sox on Friday, although Guillen has basically ruled out his left-hander. Oakland's Barry Zito also pitches Friday.

Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir pitches Saturday and Halladay, the White Sox Jose Contreras and Minnesota's Johan Santana start Sunday. Even Minnesota rookie Francisco Liriano, who is leading the Monster.com 2006 American League Final Vote, pitches Saturday and might not be able to bounce back Tuesday and throw two innings. That bit of baseball math makes Rogers the prime candidate.

"I think Kenny has been throwing the ball real well," said Guillen of Rogers. "He's a guy in the right place to start."

Countering the indecision surrounding Ramirez and the starting pitcher were Guillen's thoughts on his closer. Even with young fireballers available such as Boston's Jonathon Papelbon, Toronto's B.J. Ryan and the White Sox Bobby Jenks, Guillen is sticking with possibly baseball's best all-time finisher in Mariano Rivera.

Maybe one of Guillen's remaining closers could get the start, if all other options fail.

"Mariano Rivera is on the team, Mariano Rivera is my closer," Guillen said. "It's not Bobby Jenks. Mariano Rivera is a Hall of Famer and this is maybe his last All-Star Game. What this guy has done in baseball, he should be my closer."

Scott Merkin 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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