Tavarez: Manny to arrive on March 1

Tavarez: Manny to arrive on March 1

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- According to Manny Ramirez's closest friend on the Red Sox, the star slugger will report to camp on March 1, which is exactly one week after the first full-squad workout.

"He said he's going to be here March 1," said Red Sox reliever Julian Tavarez, who spoke to Ramirez via phone on Sunday. "He's been going through a tough time because of his mom; they told her that she had a tumor and it wasn't a tumor, but she had surgery between her ribs and she's home right now recovering, and Manny's out there with his mom."

Tavarez said that both Ramirez and his mother are currently in Weston, Fla., which is roughly a two-hour drive from where the Red Sox train.

Position players are due to report to Fort Myers by Tuesday. Despite Tavarez's information, Red Sox manager Terry Francona thought it was premature to rule out Ramirez arriving on the same schedule as the rest of the position players.

Francona said he had not heard from Ramirez on the matter.

"I have no comment on what evidently transpired on blogs and [other media outlets]," said Francona. "That's unfair because I haven't talked to him. There's a lot of 'he said, she said' that I'm not sure is true, so we'll see. If somebody calls me and tells me something happens, it's easier for me to comment than on his publicist Julian [Tavarez] saying this. Let me get it figured out here."

If Ramirez does arrive to camp on March 1, he would -- coincidentally or not -- be arriving on the mandatory date for position players, according to the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Last spring, the Red Sox gave Ramirez permission to arrive to camp on March 1, though in that case it was essentially a compromise for him agreeing to decline his invitation to the World Baseball Classic.

It's doubtful that there would be much resentment in the clubhouse if Ramirez is a little behind the rest of the position players.

"April 1?" quipped one veteran player after hearing Tavarez mention that Ramirez would arrive on "the first."

The Red Sox open their regular-season schedule at Kansas City on April 2.

First baseman Kevin Youkilis, one of the many players on the Sox who is fond of Ramirez, wasn't bothered in the least.

"Baseball is a different sport," Youkilis said. "You come together, but you don't design plays. We're not going from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. Here at Spring Training, you have to work on what you can get better at. If he's here late, he's here late. It will be fun just to see him."

Despite another batch of trade rumors regarding Ramirez over the winter, Tavarez says that his friend is in a good frame of mind entering the season.

"Manny's really prepared for the things that he does to play ball," Tavarez said. "He works hard in the offseason; he always shows up in good shape -- that's Manny. Manny is going to show up late or show up early; he's still going to put up 100 RBIs, 40 home runs and hit .300. He's a natural player right there."

It was typical Manny during the phone conversation with Tavarez on Sunday.

"The way he sounded yesterday, he was laughing a lot," Tavarez said. "I don't know if it was because his mom, she's home already, that he's happy. But he said, 'Hang in there, I'll be here the first.' I said, 'You better show up out here; what the heck are you doing home?' He was laughing. That's Manny."

Tavarez, who has known Ramirez for roughly 15 years, gets a chuckle when he hears the way people talk about his friend.

"I don't think he's crazy," Tavarez said. "I would like to be crazy hitting 40 home runs every year, 100 RBIs, hitting .300, making $160 million. Let me be crazy for that. Call me crazy anytime you want.

"Manny is going to be happy anywhere he goes. Manny doesn't want to leave Boston; it's a great city to play ball and he knows that. He's got to give something for [the media] to talk about. He has to do things so you guys will have something to talk about. That doesn't make Manny crazy; it's just Manny being Manny."

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