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04/21/08 10:45 AM ET

Red Sox give Manny first breather

Slugger sits for first time this season; Varitek out with flu

BOSTON -- With the Red Sox out of their normal routine anyway -- Monday's game started at 11:05 a.m. ET -- manager Terry Francona felt it was the perfect day to keep slugger Manny Ramirez out of the lineup for the first time this season.

This, even though Ramirez had an abbreviated day at the office on Sunday, when he was ejected arguing strike three in his first at-bat.

"Yeah, I thought about it," Francona said. "If it's supposed to be a day off, it's supposed to be a day off. It's an 11 o'clock start. He's been tremendous. Sometimes you try to reach one day too far and you set somebody back. I wasn't going to do that. I know what happened yesterday and all that. We've got a pretty good thing going right now [with Ramirez]. This will be good for him."

Because outfielder Coco Crisp is still unavailable with hamstring woes, Joe Thurston got the start in left. It marked the sixth straight game Crisp was out of action.

"He's still not there," Francona said of Crisp. "I checked with him this morning and he's closer. But he's not ready so we're not going to do something we're not supposed to do."

On the other hand, this was not a scheduled day off for catcher and captain Jason Varitek. The veteran has been hit with an extreme case of the flu the last couple of days. Kevin Cash started in his place.

"I've not seen him yet this morning. It wasn't pretty [on Sunday]," Francona said. "I don't think he's going to show up looking real chipper. It's affecting guys in different ways. Some of the guys are getting the head congestion, some guys are getting the nausea, and some guys are getting the aches and pains. It's hitting everyone different."

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