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02/22/06 3:43 PM EST

Manny iffy for World Baseball Classic

Dominican Republic manager hasn't heard official word yet

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With strong speculation mounting that Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez will withdraw from playing in the World Baseball Classic, there continued to be no official word on Wednesday.

But that could change on Thursday afternoon when Paul Archey of Major League Baseball and Gene Orza of the Major League Baseball Players Association are scheduled to hold a conference call with reporters to discuss "all aspects of the inaugural tournament."

Certainly, Ramirez's uncertain status will be a hot-button topic. It definitely has been around Red Sox camp the last two days.

Dominican Republic manager Manny Acta, reached on Wednesday at Mets camp in Port St. Lucie, said he hadn't heard if Ramirez backed out.

As recently as earlier this week, Acta, the Mets' third-base coach, had been sketching together a lineup with Ramirez's lethal bat as a centerpiece alongside Miguel Tejada, Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero and Red Sox teammate David Ortiz.

Ortiz, who has had as hard a time tracking down his pal Ramirez as inquiring reporters, couldn't confirm if the left fielder had indeed decided not to represent his country on the international stage.

"That's his decision," said Ortiz.

Though Ramirez was included on the Dominican Republic's provisional 60-man roster, teams are not required to submit their final 30-man roster until March 2.

The Red Sox did announce Tuesday that Ramirez would report to their camp on March 1, which is six days after the rest of his teammates conduct their first workout, but right on schedule with the mandatory guidelines of Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said Tuesday that he had knowledge of whether Ramirez was still planning on playing for the Dominican, but added that he was not at liberty to announce what that decision was, and that all comments on the matter must come from Major League Baseball.

However, considering that the Red Sox seemed quick to grant Ramirez his wish to report later than the rest of the players to camp, it's certainly possible a compromise was reached. For by not playing in the World Baseball Classic, that would put Ramirez in camp for close to three weeks longer than originally expected.

"The goal is to get ready for the season," said Epstein. "Manny is getting ready for the season. This will give us a month to get ready for the season as a team."

If Ramirez does opt to play in the Classic, he would be with the Red Sox for just a day or two before heading to the Dominican's first workout, which is scheduled for March 3 in Orlando.

Ortiz is taking Ramirez at his word that he will join the Red Sox on March 1.

"He's not walking away from $20 million," said Ortiz following Wednesday's workout.

Ramirez requested a trade from the Red Sox after the 2005 season, but the team has been unable to find a good match. The Red Sox won't say whether Ramirez has rescinded that request.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.