Manny Ramirez slated to report for winter ball on Monday

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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.

Report: Welington Castillo to be suspended 80 games for violating Joint Drug Agreement

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic confirms a report from journalist Américo Celado that White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will be suspended 80 games for violating baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement. Castillo was believed to have used a steroid, but according to Rosenthal, the substance was not a steroid. More details should come on Thursday.

Castillo, 31, entered Wednesday’s action batting .270/.314/.477 with six home runs and 15 RBI in 118 plate appearances. He has gotten the bulk of the work behind the plate, backed up by Omar Narváez.

Castillo’s absence will likely prompt the White Sox to call up Kevan Smith from Triple-A Charlotte. Smith battled an ankle injury in March and April, so he got a late start to the season. In 102 PA at Triple-A, he has hit .283/.343/.457.