- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer
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Manny Ramirez will have to scratch his plans to play winter baseball in the Dominican Republic.
Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of labor relations, confirmed Thursday that Ramirez will not be able to play in the Dominican, because he's on the inactive list and must first receive permission from commissioner Bud Selig's office.
That possibility appears non-existent, considering Ramirez retired in April rather than serve a 100-game suspension for a second violation of MLB's drug policy.
"Manny Ramirez cannot play for a major or minor league club or any affiliated organization, including a winter league team, without getting the consent of the commissioner,'' Manfred said.
Ramirez told ESPNdeportes.com's Enrique Rojas that his representatives were scheduled to meet with MLB officials on Thursday morning to discuss his participation in the Dominican league. But a Major League Baseball official said he had no knowledge of the meeting.
"I'm really interested and enthusiastic about playing baseball [in the Dominican Republic], but I can't control the future,'' Ramirez said via phone Wednesday, adding that he's been training in a batting cage in Miami. "Let's just wait and see what's the outcome of that meeting; it would be really sad if I'm not allowed to play.''
Ramirez retired in April after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance while with the Tampa Bay Rays. Rather than face a 100-game suspension for a second violation of MLB's drug policy, the 12-time All-Star left the game. Ramirez previously served a 50-game ban in 2009 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ramirez's decision to retire with an unresolved drug policy offense makes him subject to Article 3(b) of baseball's Winter League Agreement, which states: "A Major League Player who is on a Major League Inactive List may not play in a Winter League ... unless the Major League Player is a Native Player in the country in which the player wishes to play and the Commissioner consents.''
Ramirez's situation also is addressed by Major League Rule 14(b), which states that any "voluntarily retired'' player must receive written consent from the commissioner's office before returning to play.
According to Manfred, all big-league players are supposed to receive permission from the commissioner's office before appearing in MLB-sanctioned winter leagues. But since the rosters in winter ball are so fluid, that apparently hasn't always been the case.
Winston Llenas, president of the Cibao Eagles, a winter league team in the northern Dominican Republic, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Ramirez was expected to start training with the Eagles next week.
Llenas said the 39-year-old Ramirez wanted to "play before the Dominican fans and to perhaps motivate other major league stars to also play in the country."
Ramirez, who was born in the Dominican capital city of Santo Domingo and grew up in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood, last played in the Dominican winter league during the 1993-94 season with the Eagles.
Ramirez retired from the majors with 555 home runs, 1,831 RBIs and a .312 career batting average. But his multiple performance-enhancing drug offenses have cast a major cloud over his Hall of Fame aspirations.
Ramirez also is facing criminal prosecution in Florida on charges that he slapped his wife during a recent argument. He told investigators that he only grabbed his wife by the shoulders and "shrugged" her, causing her to hit her head on the headboard of their bed.
In 2004, Ramirez was named MVP of the World Series as he helped the Boston Red Sox end an 86-year title drought.
Jerry Crasnick is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com. ESPN's Colleen Dominguez, ESPNdeportes.com's Enrique Rojas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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