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02/21/09 4:30 PM EST
Ramirez headed to Classic, and will play
Promised action, Rangers catcher to represent Venezuela
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers catcher Max Ramirez is planning on playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. The Rangers are fine with that as long as Ramirez gets to play and is not sitting around on the bench. Venezuelan manager Luis Sojo told Ramirez he would get playing time and is expected to talk with Rangers manager Ron Washington about the situation. "The manager called me and said I was going to play," Ramirez said. "I talked to [general manager] Jon Daniels and Ron Washington, and they said it would be a good experience if I played a lot. If I don't play, it's better to be here because I'm probably going to be back with the team at some point during the season. "But I'm going to play. I just don't know if I'm going to start at catcher, first base or DH, but I'm going to play." Ramirez, at least right now, is not expected to make the Rangers out of camp. Right now, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the starter, Taylor Teagarden is the backup and Adam Melhuse represents the veteran depth. Ramirez, barring injuries, is expected to start the season at Triple-A Oklahoma. Kevin Richardson could also catch at Triple-A, but he is currently sidelined in camp with a sore left knee. Ramirez hit .354 with 17 home runs and 50 RBIs in 243 at-bats for Double-A Frisco last year and .217 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 17 games and 46 at-bats for the Rangers. He also played well in the Venezuela Winter League, leading the league in RBIs and winning Rookie of the Year honors. That has pushed him into a more prominent position on the Venezuela team. "I feel great," Ramirez said. "It will be a great honor to represent my country." Venezuela also has catchers Henry Blanco, Ramon Hernandez, Dioner Navarro and Humberto Quintero on the provisional roster, but Ramirez gives them some versatility and potentially more offensive firepower. The team suffered a setback, though, when pitchers Johan Santana and Carlos Zambrano backed out of the Classic. Ramirez is the third Rangers player to commit to playing in the Classic. Outfielder Nelson Cruz is playing for the Dominican Republic and Frank Catalanotto is playing for Italy.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.