MLB ramps up security for players

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Major League Baseball and law enforcement officials were monitoring the man who wrote threatening letters that targeted Red Sox players Manny Ramirez and Coco Crisp, and as a precaution, both the team and the league sent extra security here.

The letters came to the attention of league officials while the Sox were in Baltimore for a series at the beginning of June, according to club and baseball sources with direct knowledge of the matter. They were not sent directly to either player, and the letter writer has a history spanning some years of sending such letters, an MLB source said yesterday. The executive did not rule out that law enforcement officials would move against the writer, whose whereabouts are known to authorities and who remains under surveillance.

Ramirez professed no knowledge of the matter. Crisp, who is serving out the remainder of a five-game suspension and will not play in the series here, acknowledged he was aware of the situation, but declined comment. The Boston Herald first reported the existence of threats to unnamed players yesterday.

The letters, sources said, were not connected in any way to the June 5 brawl in Fenway Park that began when Rays pitcher James Shields hit Crisp with a pitch, in retaliation for Crisp's hard slide the night before.

Charles Cellucci, the Sox director of security and emergency services, joined the club here after its arrival from Houston Sunday night. He was accompanied by at least one other security official. MLB has security officers in all of its cities, but additional personnel were sent here, sources said.

"We have security on the road in a lot of places," said John Blake, the team's vice president of media relations, noting that Cellucci has been here in the past to deal with security issues at the team's hotel, which is just a couple of miles from Tropicana Field and is known to the team's fans.

"These kinds of things happen from time to time, not only to the Red Sox but to other teams, and we and MLB take them seriously."

Sox manager Terry Francona refused to discuss the matter. David Ortiz made light of it. Asked if someone had targeted him, he said: "Somebody wants to hurt Papi? You hurt Papi, you've got the world against you."