"No, my train already stopped," Ramirez told reporters.
That was then. This is now.
The finish line is nowhere in sight for Ramirez, who opens the season 10 homers shy of 500 and is looking far beyond that potential Hall of Fame milestone.
"I'm going to get to 600 [homers]," Ramirez told reporters in Japan over the weekend. "Why not? The sky's the limit. There's no limit."
Ramirez worked out all winter at the Athletes Performance Institute in Arizona and appears to be in the best shape of his career. He hired Scott Boras as his agent over the winter, a pretty good sign he plans to play beyond 2009 and 2010 (the Red Sox hold team options for both seasons at $20 million apiece). And before that news broke, he told the Boston Herald he'd like to play until he's 48, a la Julio Franco.
"I'm going to play six more years and there's no doubt I can [hit 600 homers]," Ramirez said. "I know what [is] ahead. I'm going to get two more years here, and then I'm going to get four years, so it's going to be six years. I'm going to finish my career here [in Boston]."
Appropriately enough, Ramirez—who wears uniform no. 24—is likely to become the 24th player to reach 500 homers (he's 10 homers ahead of Gary Sheffield). Of the 16 Hall of Fame-eligible players with 500 homers, everyone is in Cooperstown except Mark McGwire.
Only five players have reached 600 homers: Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa. Ken Griffey Jr. is seven homers shy of the mark.
Wake can't sleep: Tim Wakefield, who threw 5 2/3 solid innings to earn the win in an exhibition against the Yomiuri Giants Sunday, told reporters afterward he didn't get a good night's sleep until Saturday evening. He also said he expected to need up to two weeks upon the Sox' return to America to get used to the time change.
"[The trip is] really special for us, now that we're catching up on our sleep," Wakefield told reporters.
Trio to be inactive: The Boston Globe reported on its website Monday that Wakefield, Mike Timlin and Sean Casey will be inactive when the Sox take on the Athletics in the first two games of the regular season Tuesday and Wednesday. Timlin suffered a two-stitch cut on his right ring finger while pitching in a minor league game the day of the Sox' departure for Japan while Casey came down with a stiff neck during the 17-hour flight to Tokyo.
The Globe reported that the Sox will carry three catchers. Minor leaguer Dusty Brown will back up starter Jason Varitek and reserve Kevin Cash.
Japanese fans think Okajima is better than OK: Hideki Okajima, who received a standing ovation when he pitched against his former team Yomiuri Sunday, told reporters it was the warmest greeting he's ever received in Japan.
"I didn't have all that cheering when I was pitching in Japan," Okajima said.
Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at email@example.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.
For Manny, 500's Just The Start
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