Manny Ramirez will likely make Minor League debut on Sunday

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Manny Ramirez will likely get his 2013 season started on Sunday with Triple-A Round Rock, reports Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. The Rangers recently signed the controversial 41-year-old slugger to a Minor League deal in what amounts to a low-risk, medium-reward flier.

We last saw Ramirez in the Majors in 2011 when he had a very short-lived, controversy-laden stint with the Tampa Bay Rays. He posted a .118 OPS before failing a drug test, prompting his retirement. During the off-season, he requested and was granted reinstatement into Major League Baseball, then signed a Minor League deal with the Athletics as spring training began. With Triple-A Sacramento, Ramirez posted a .697 OPS in 69 trips to the plate. He requested his release from the team. During the off-season, he played in the Dominican Professional Baseball League.

Ramirez signed with the EDA Rhinos of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan for the 2013 season. There, he finally found success at the dish, hitting .352 with eight homers and 43 RBI in 49 games. Ramirez opted out of his contract with the Rhinos on June 15, then signed with the Rangers, effectively starting the next chapter of his waning baseball career.

Love him or hate him, you can’t slight the guy’s passion for the game. Not many 40-year-olds, let alone those who have done as much on the field and earned as much money as Ramirez has in his career, would traverse the globe to continue playing for relative peanuts in relative obscurity. And in a season in which Raul Ibanez is helping us rethink what we know about 40-year-olds playing baseball, it wouldn’t be the strangest thing if Ramirez hit his way back into the Majors.

Joey Votto: “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently.”

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We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”

Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).

Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.