SEATTLE (AP) -The Boston Red Sox are doing so well right now, they can afford to do something they almost never do.
Rest Manny Ramirez.
Manager Terry Francona did not start the slugger Tuesday night against Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, after he had played in 73 of the first 75 games. The Red Sox entered the night with the best record in the major leagues and a 10-game lead on Toronto in the AL East.
``I think he leads the team in games played. I don't want to go too far,'' Francona said correctly while discussing his decision to start Eric Hinske in left field instead.
``Manny is such a good hitter, you can come up with a million reasons not to ever give him a day off.''
There was one reason to do so Tuesday: Ramirez was 1-for-6 in his career against Felix Hernandez, Tuesday's starter - including an 0-for-3 night with a strikeout April 11, when Hernandez threw a one-hitter. But Francona said rest, not Hernandez, was the reason Ramirez watched.
Ramirez is batting .384 in his last 29 games. His averaged peaked at a season-high .304 after he was 3-for-4 with his 11th home run Friday at San Diego. He was 1-for-10 in three games since entering Tuesday.
He played in 122 of Boston's first 126 games last season, before right knee tendinitis limited him to just seven starts over the final 36 games. From 2003-05 with Boston, he played in 154, 152 and 152 games.
His previous days off were May 6, for an afternoon game following two night games at Minnesota, and June 9 at Arizona - a second consecutive night game before a day start.
Francona is using the same schedule for Ramirez with this rest. He wants the right-hander back Wednesday afternoon against Mariners rookie left-hander Ryan Feierabend. Ramirez is batting .386 with six home runs in 37 games against left-handers.
``Taking him out is the hardest thing,'' Francona said. ``It's almost not fair to him (to play him so much).''
Francona also benched shortstop Julio Lugo, who entered Tuesday in an 0-for-29 slump that had dropped his average to .191. Ramirez spent part of his pregame sitting next to Lugo at his locker, talking softly to him.
Francona said that Lugo, who is right-handed, is likely to be back in the lineup on Wednesday against Feierabend.
``Lugo is having such a tough time. I'm trying to do what's right. And I've got to tell you, that's not the easiest thing to do sometimes,'' Francona said, adding Lugo has handled his struggles well.
Left-hander Alex Cora, who subbed for Dustin Pedroia when the rookie second baseman struggled early in the season, started for Lugo.
``I guess the way I look at it is, it's a good thing we have Alex Cora,'' Francona said.
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