With one week to go before training camp, it looks like Manny Ramirez is actually going to follow through with those plans to play in the Dominican Republic this winter. He’s set to arrive this weekend and join Aguilas Cibaenas on Monday.
Ramirez retired from MLB in April after learning that he’d be suspended for 100 games for a second violation of the league’s steroids policy. ESPN Deportes reported later that month that he was planning to play in the D.R. this winter, and Aguilas team president Winston Llenas confirmed the news (hat tip: USA TODAY’s Steve Gardner). Apparently, his recent arrest on battery charges for hitting his wife won’t stop him from leaving the US.
Ramirez would almost certainly still have to serve that 100-game ban if he tried to return to MLB at some point. However, he wouldn’t be the first player to hang around playing winter ball for years after retiring from MLB. Fernando Valenzuela was done in the majors in 1997, but he pitched in Mexico up until 2006. Vinny Castilla played two seasons in Mexico after retiring from MLB following 2006.
Twins right-hander Ervin Santana is headed back to the disabled list after experiencing a flare-up of symptoms related to the MVP joint injury he sustained on his right middle finger back in February. According to club manager Paul Molitor, no timetable has been revealed for his return to the rotation, but given the significant time he’s already missed this season, it seems unlikely that he’ll play a significant role — if any — down the stretch. He’s currently scheduled to see a hand specialist on Tuesday, after which the Twins will reevaluate his status and decide whether or not to shut him down for the remainder of the 2018 season.
Santana, 35, underwent surgery on his finger in February and missed over five months during a lengthy recovery process. The veteran righty was activated from the 60-day disabled list in July, but has pitched to an 0-1 record in five starts since then, with an abysmal 8.03 ERA, 3.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 through 24 2/3 innings. His most recent start, Thursday’s surprising 15-8 win over the Tigers, was also his worst of the season: He allowed seven runs and three walks over four innings and struck out just two of 22 batters faced before calling it a night in the fifth inning.
Given Santana’s continued struggles on the mound and the uphill battle he faces in recovery, it’s difficult to imagine that the team will exercise his $14 million option for 2019 come fall. Until then, the Twins’ no. 5 prospect, 24-year-old southpaw Stephen Gonsalves, is expected to assume Santana’s spot in the rotation. Gonsalves turned in a 12-3 record in 22 starts for Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester, with a cumulative 2.76 ERA, 4.8 BB/9 and 9.0 SO/9 through 120 2/3 innings.