DETROIT -- The process is not one that Red Sox right-hander Matt Clement would be interested in going through again, first learning that he just missed the cut on the American League All-Star roster, then wondering for six days if he might be added on as a replacement and finally being added when Roy Halladay was forced to the disabled list.

But now that Clement's long and winding road to his first All-Star Game has finally brought him to Detroit, he is loving the experience.

"It's awesome," said Clement. "I think once I get to the field and really get to soak it in, maybe tonight, I'll really know and really get to appreciate what it is. The process was a little weird for me. It wasn't the normal way to get here. At the same time, I felt I pitched well enough to deserve to be here. The numbers just didn't work out at the beginning. It was unfortunate what happened to Roy, I felt bad about that. I'm also happy that I'm here."

All Clement has done in his first season in Boston is go 10-2 in the first half, successfully anchoring a pitching staff that has been without ace Curt Schilling.

"You work hard to improve, to become better start by start, year by year, whatever it may be," Clement said. "To get here, that's a big step for me but I'm not content with that. There's a long way to go. I have a lot more loftier goals that I can get near."

The immediate one is to help the Red Sox get back to the World Series.

"We're all excited because we know we have the chance to do something special," said Clement. "We didn't know what was going to happen when Schilling went down and Boomer went down, the same day just about. For us as a staff, it wasn't just me. [Tim] Wakefield's done a tremendous job, Bronson [Arroyo], Wade [Miller] has come in and done a good job.

"That's how you have a good season as a team and an organization. You have to be able to withstand injuries. Fortunately, I'm glad someone on our staff got represented. To be in first place in the hardest division in baseball in my opinion, it takes more than just hitting. We've pitched pretty well. We've had our rough stretches, but as a staff, we've pitched pretty well."

Manny misses presser: Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, who has hardly spoken to the media all year, did not show up for Monday's American League press conference. A seat was set up for him right next to friend and teammate David Ortiz, but it stayed empty throughout the hour-long session.

Red Sox spokesman Glenn Geffner confirmed that Ramirez was in Detroit and added that the club tried to get him by phone to remind him about Monday's media obligation.

Last year, Ramirez did a complete transformation from previous seasons and became a media darling. But for whatever reason, Ramirez has gone back to his hardly-quoted self.

"You know what, we've always backed Manny in everything that he's done," said Sox center fielder Johnny Damon. "Even when his numbers weren't so great early in the season. We knew he was going to start hitting and carry our team. Manny is the only one who can answer [why he isn't talking to the media]. I don't think he means to disrespect anyone. He's just going about his business. He comes to the ballpark and works very hard and once the game is over, he wants to get home and enjoy himself and his family. Believe me, it's no disrespect."

All-Star Game 2005

"He might be sleeping," said Ortiz. "He might be running behind little Manuel [Ramirez's son]. He doesn't talk too much anyway."

Schilling's new role: It is expected that the Red Sox will activate Curt Schilling for the first game after the All-Star break, which occurs on Thursday against the Yankees.

"For us, we're struggling to have an extra righty in that bullpen, to be honest with you. Anybody that's going to help," said Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "And to add his presence to that bullpen is going to help as long as he's healthy. We'll have to see what he has to offer. Who's coming up. How he feels. How his fastball is. How his slider is."

Big battle looms: There will be no easing into the second half for the Red Sox. Not with the Yankees, trailing the Sox by just 2 1/2 games in the AL East, coming to Fenway on Thursday for the opener of a four-game series.

"Our division has been pretty doggone tough," said Varitek. "For us, it is another series, but it's an important series, just to keep trying to win games. It ought to be fun because everyone has a couple of days off for the All-Star break, recharge their batteries and get themselves going for the second half."

Sox and A-Rod: While there were plenty of barbs back and forth between Alex Rodriguez and certain Red Sox players (Schilling, Trot Nixon, etc.) a few months back, things appear to have calmed down. Ortiz and Damon were seen mingling with A-Rod at a VIP function on Sunday night.

"Yeah, yeah, I talk to A-Rod all the time," said Ortiz. "A-Rod is a great guy. He's a player. Things happen in the game. Sometimes things get out of hand. No history. Everything is fine. We were talking about it, and he kind of liked my glasses."

Damon's contract: When agent Scott Boras spotted Damon, one of his many premier clients in the middle of a hotel ballroom on Monday, the two men exchanged a friendly hug. Watching the exchange, it could only make you wonder what will become of Damon's contract negotiations when he is expected to opt for free agency in November.

Boras was not surprised that the Sox didn't make a big push to re-sign Damon before the start of the 2005 season.

"The movement of that was more along the lines of what they did with Varitek," said Boras. "They wanted to evaluate this at the end of the season. Johnny is happy there. The market is going to be very explosive for him. [Top leadoff hitters], they're hard to find, and center fielders to boot."