Dominican team might lose Martinez and Ramirez
By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
February 23, 2006
NEW YORK (AP) -- Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez might drop off the Dominican Republic's team in the World Baseball Classic.
Martinez, who has a toe injury, still hasn't pitched off a mound in spring training for the New York Mets. He said Thursday he will definitely miss the first round of the tournament.
"Our understanding is that Pedro, very frankly, is doubtful," said Gene Orza, the No. 2 official of the players' association. "It's still possible he will play, but I think it's at best 50-50 right now."
Orza has spoken in recent days with representatives for Martinez and Ramirez, who was given permission by the Red Sox to report to spring training on March 1, one day after the mandatory reporting date.
The Dominicans must submit their 30-man roster on March 2, five days before their opener against Venezuela.
"Coming to camp on March 1 doesn't bode well for Manny's participation," Orza said during a telephone conference call.
Texas Rangers closer Francisco Cordero has a sore shoulder that will keep him from pitching for the Dominicans.
"I'm really disappointed," he said in Surprise, Ariz. "I've been waiting as long as I could to make the decision, but my shoulder just doesn't feel right."
Cordero has been limited to throwing off flat ground. He threw for eight minutes Wednesday and said the pain was lingering.
"I'm not a fast starter in spring training, and I need to be careful," Cordero said. "I want the Dominican Republic to win as much as anybody back home, but I also want to be able to help the team."
Washington second baseman Jose Vidro also dropped out, saying will not play for Puerto Rico in the 16-team tournament.
"My past two years have been injury-plagued," he said in Viera, Fla. "This spring training is very important for me."
A day after a breakdown in talks with the World Umpires Association, the sides started talking again Thursday. The commissioner's office and the Major League Baseball Players Association said Wednesday they were prepared to use members of the Association of Minor League Umpires along with international umpires.
As a condition for working the tournament, WUA umpires asked that money be set aside for retired umpires and their families and that Bob Davidson, Tom Hallion and Ed Hickox be restored to full major league salaries and health care. The three were among the 22 umps who lost their jobs during a labor dispute in 1999, and in a December 2004 agreement the commissioner's office agreed to hire them back among the next five openings.
"We have a clock. We're not going to play this event without umpires," Orza said. "And I believe that the basic problem the WUA faces in our continuing discussions with them is that that clock may have stopped before they became more reasonable in their demands. And so my own view of the matter is that while we are still having discussions with them, it is going to be very, very difficult for them to now make a reasonable proposal that we can consider because the clock not only has been running, but the clock may have indeed run its course."
During the conference call, Orza and baseball senior vice president Paul Archey defended picking March as the time for the tournament. Several players have dropped out because they feel they could lose spots with their clubs.
"In my experience with talking to players who have opted out of the tournament, it's not pressure from the club, it's the pressure they themselves feel," Orza said. "Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it may not get you a spot on the roster."
Baseball officials have said they don't think players are at risk in the tournament due to its timing early in their season preparation.
"We don't believe the tournament is going to create any greater number of injuries than spring training itself would," Orza said.
He said some general managers have made "quiet suggestions" that players drop out, and said the GMs feel job pressure. Orza said six or seven teams always fail to meet preseason expectations.
"I guarantee that when those six or seven teams come July or August are underperforming, that all six or seven teams will say that one of the reasons their team was affected and didn't play as well as people anticipated back in March and April was because the World Baseball Classic interrupted spring training," he said. "They won't be right to say that, but they will in fact say it."