FORT MYERS, Flas. – It was the latest in a long line of classic Manny Moments. Only Ramirez could show up to work a week late and still be on time.

Manny got to camp just as many of his teammates were leaving the Sox to join various countries in the World Baseball Classic. Ramirez won’t be leaving to play for the Dominican team, trading in that honor in exchange for an extra week’s vacation.

“My main focus is baseball right now,” Ramirez said after arriving at the Red Sox complex Wednesday morning as promised.

For a guy focused on baseball, Ramirez looked more like a football player. He wore a Tim Brown Raiders jersey on his back and a Ricky Williams do on his head. And he arrived with plenty of blocking – agent Greg Genske and company formed a protective shield around him as he walked through the front door.

In the best line of the day, The Globe’s Nick Cafardo said it looked like a wanted man surrendering himself to the authorities.

In fact, Manny continues to maintain that he is here to get to work. Shortly after his arrival, he did just that. He threw, caught, and took a few turns in the cage (he did not hit any balls over the fence.)

As usual, Manny looked happiest to be in uniform on the field.

I don’t live in the past, I live in the present,” said Manny. “That’s it. This is a new year. A lot of people want me to come back. People want me here so we’re just going to move on. I’m just going to come and do my job. I get paid to play baseball. That’s why I’m here. That’s it. What else can I say?”

One thing Manny did say is that he’s in the best shape of his career. He looked it, appearing to be more trim and athletic than years past. And that’s saying something for a guy who works as hard as any member of the team.

He also said he realizes his place in the game, a bit of self-realization that Manny hasn’t indicated in the past.

“I also want to get another thing straight,” said Manny. “I’ve got a beautiful career going on, and I’m not going to let little things like this mess up all the things that I’ve accomplished because I think when I finish my career, I’m going to be a special player. I’m not going to let nobody stop that and that’s me. I’ve got a goal for myself, and I’m now going to accomplish that.”

What he didn’t say was that he was happy. When asked if he was, Manny replied: “I’m here, I’m here.” He also went on to say he’d perform “even if I like it or not.”

That said, no one seems concerned about Manny’s attitude.

“Playing baseball makes him happy,” Genske said of his client.

“When I see him in the clubhouse, embracing teammates, I think he’s happy.”

The Red Sox seemed in agreement. Manny may or may not be happy to return to the Red Sox, but no one seems to think that’ll get in the way of his production.

“When he steps in that batter’s box, nothing else matters,” said Manager Terry Francona.

“He’s a force. The occasional bump in the road won’t take the place of 140 runs batted in. Look down the stretch last year.

“When we really needed Manny, he was there for us.”

He’s here now. And he’s not leaving to play in the World Classic. And that should make everyone in Red Sox Nation happy.

Whether Manny’s happy or not.

Lewiston native Tom Caron is a NESN studio host for Red Sox telecasts.


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