BOSTON (AP) – Manny Ramirez’s trade request will be difficult to honor because of his contract, Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said Thursday.

Lucchino also said he didn’t know the left fielder’s motivation for refusing manager Terry Francona’s request to play Wednesday afternoon’s game at Tampa Bay after another outfielder, Trot Nixon, was sidelined with a strained muscle in his side. Before the injury, Francona told Ramirez he could have the day off.

“It’s hard to know if the events of the last couple of days are the result of sort of psychological and physical needs for a sustained period of rest or it’s some calculation or some move to encourage us to trade him,” Lucchino told WEEI radio on his regularly scheduled segment. Lucchino and Ramirez’s agent, Scott Parker, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Team owner John Henry and general manager Theo Epstein did not respond to e-mails, and the Red Sox clubhouse was locked on their day off Thursday. Ramirez is batting .275 with 28 homers and a major league-leading 92 RBIs for the Red Sox, who lead the AL East by 1 1/2 games over the New York Yankees. He is due $64.2 million from his $160 million, eight-year contract including $7,213,115 from Friday through the rest of this season.

On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated reported on its Web site that Ramirez had asked to be traded. The report said he told club officials he was unhappy in Boston, especially with an off-field lack of privacy.

The Red Sox will explore trading him before Sunday’s deadline, but that will be tough, Lucchino said.

“Because of the size of his contract, obviously, it’s hard,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of clubs that are going to be interested, but it depends how little you’re willing to take in return with respect to trades. I’m not talking about Manny specifically, although it certainly applies to him.”

A club might want to make a deal if it asks the Red Sox to pay 95 percent of Ramirez’s salary, “but that’s not a particularly intelligent thing for us to do,” Lucchino said.

He also said this is the fourth straight season in which Ramirez has requested a trade “and our general response was, “it’s that time of year’ and we’ll explore it as we explore other trades.”

Boston may resist trading Ramirez because it is short in the outfield. With Nixon on the 15-day disabled list and Ramirez not playing, Francona used first baseman Kevin Millar in left field and rookie Adam Stern in right Wednesday.

Despite leading the division, Red Sox officials would like to improve their postseason chances with a trade. Last year, Epstein sent shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs at the deadline.

“It is the time of year when you consider all manner of trades,” Lucchino said. “Theo is certainly willing to be bold and make moves that other GMs might shy away from, so this is the time for us to think about trades and, certainly, Manny’s name will come up from time to time, I’m sure, in the next 72 hours.”

AP-ES-07-28-05 1658EDT

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