Notes: Ramirez won't be at auction

Notes: Ramirez will not appear at car auction

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If slugger Manny Ramirez was scheduled to attend a car auction in Atlantic City, N.J., on Saturday -- as had been reported by multiple media outlets -- Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein says that is no longer the case.

"We talked to his agent and he said he's not going to be there, so that's fine," said Epstein. "He's dealing with a family issue, and we're not going to document his exact whereabouts on an hour-to-hour basis. He told us he's not going to be there and he's tending to his mother, and we believe him."

The Red Sox, as was announced Wednesday, have granted Ramirez permission to report to Spring Training on March 1 because of an illness to his mother. Therefore, the timing of the Atlantic City report raised questions.

"This is a huge one for us to wait out and see what actually happens," said Red Sox captain Jason Varitek. "We can really only go off of, if it happens, what to do. There's really not a whole lot you can do. If it had already occurred, it changes the dynamics quite a bit. We hear he's in great shape and ready to go."

If Ramirez had indeed planned to appear at the car auction before his mother became ill, it raises the question of how he could have worked it around his schedule with the Red Sox.

"Some guys use BlackBerries, some guys are on personal schedules," said Epstein. "Manny certainly intends to be here as soon as he can and get ready for the season. I think it's not the biggest deal in the world, provided he's here March 1, or even earlier if his mother's situation resolves itself."

Manager Terry Francona didn't lend a lot of credence to the reports.

"I spoke to his agent and I spoke to Manny, and that was not part of why he wasn't coming," Francona said. "For me to say more, I don't know more. From my point of view, I think I explained it; he was staying home to be with his mom."

Beckett looks strong: Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell was asked which pitchers had made a strong impression early in camp. After all, with all the hype over Daisuke Matsuzaka, the rest of the staff has been overshadowed.

"I think the strength in which Josh Beckett has gone through his bullpens in the early going here has been very impressive," said Farrell. "The location of his fastball has been consistently down in the zone. He's got a pretty good understanding and a pretty good feel. He comes in pretty much with his delivery in check.

"And I think that's a tribute to the work he's done this offseason and the mind-set that it's his second year with the Red Sox. There's a lot of known commodities already in place for him. There's a greater comfort level coming in. That's been very positive."

Meet and greet: Prior to Thursday's first full-squad workout, Francona addressed the team, as he does every spring. Also present were Epstein and the club's ownership group of John W. Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner.

"I think it went very well," said Francona. "The people who needed to talk talked. We had introductions. We kept it to about 35 minutes. The message really doesn't change every year. The things that were important still continue to be important this year and probably aren't any different than the other 29 teams. It's just who can do it better."

Matsuzaka would welcome Ichiro: In light of Ichiro Suzuki's recent comments that he might become a free agent after the season, it was only a matter of time before Matsuzaka was asked about the possibility of the star right fielder coming to Boston.

"I had the opportunity to play on the same team with Ichiro for the first time ever during the World Baseball Classic," said Matsuzaka. "By being on the same team with Ichiro-san, I felt his greatness and his ability and also his reliability. I felt his greatness directly through that experience. If I could be on the same team with him, there would be nobody I could count on more."

Early birds: The Red Sox will begin their workout at 9 a.m. on Friday, a half hour earlier than normal. The reason is that the team will be playing in a local golf tournament in the afternoon. Among those on the links will be Matsuzaka.

Francona is expected to unveil his pitching rotation for the early exhibition games following Friday's workout. The Red Sox begin their exhibition season on Wednesday against the Twins.

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