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05/23/08 10:27 PM ET

Manny stays relaxed amid slump

Red Sox slugger expresses confidence in hitting approach

OAKLAND -- Is Manny Ramirez in a slump? The numbers tell you that. Ramirez's personality does not.

The Red Sox's star slugger was in a jovial mood before Friday night's game with the Oakland Athletics, joking around with teammates and expressing confidence in his hitting approach.

If Ramirez is pressing because he remains stuck on 498 home runs, it doesn't show.

"I'm just happy to be alive and playing the game. I feel good," said Ramirez. "I'm ready to go. Everything is good, I'm ready to go. I couldn't be better. We're on top of the world."

In his last 23 games entering Friday, Ramirez was hitting .198, forcing his average to go from .370 to .287. He had gone 33 at-bats without a home run.

But his carefree mind-set is probably a big reason he's been such a consistent slugger over the years.

"He's amazing in that he doesn't carry one at-bat to the next at-bat," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He's amazing. You hear him in the dugout, you would never know whether he got a hit or didn't get a hit."

If Francona did sense the slump was getting to Ramirez, he would have offered the left fielder a day off. But Ramirez was in the lineup, hitting in his customary cleanup slot Friday night.

"There's not a lot of days I show up at the ballpark and say, 'Boy, I'd sure like to sit Manny.' He's OK though," Francona said. "I've kind of been watching him a little bit. [Bench coach Brad Mills] will walk back and talk to him. If he needs it, we'd do it. If he wants it, we would do it."

Instead, Ramirez will keep hacking and hope that something clicks. Even a hitter of Ramirez's caliber goes through stretches where his mechanics get faulty.

"I just think his timing is a little inconsistent," Francona said. "He's just not quite getting his foot down in time. Everything is hurried. But that's a heck of a lot easier said than done."

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