NEW YORK (AP) — Manny Ramirez walked away from baseball on Friday after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, abruptly ending the mercurial career of one of the most talented — and tainted — hitters to ever play the game.
The slumping Tampa Bay slugger informed Major League Baseball that he would retire rather than face a 100-game suspension. Ramirez served a 50-game ban for violating the drug policy in 2009, and second-time offenders get double that penalty.
“We were obviously surprised when we found out about it today, and hurt by what transpired,” said Rays vice president Andrew Friedman, who signed Ramirez to a $2 million, one-year contract in the offseason. “We were cautiously optimistic that he would be able to be a force for us.”
A person familiar with the situation confirmed to The Associated Press that the 12-time All-Star tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the nature of Ramirez’s issue with MLB’s drug policy was not publicly disclosed.
The commissioner’s office announced Ramirez’s decision in a statement, but provided few details.
“Major League Baseball recently notified Manny Ramirez of an issue under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” the statement said. “Ramirez has informed MLB that he is retiring as an active player. If Ramirez seeks reinstatement in the future, the process under the Drug Program will be completed.”
MLB said it would have no further comment.
The 38-year-old outfielder-designated hitter with 555 career home runs left the Rays earlier this week to attend to what the team called a family matter. Manager Joe Maddon said Thursday that he expected Ramirez to be available for Friday night’s game at Chicago, but he never showed up.
“Of course you’re disappointed,” Maddon said at U.S. Cellular Field. “But at the end of the day, he has to make up his own mind. It’s a choice he has to make.”
Ramirez played in only five games for the Rays, with one hit in 17 at-bats, and flied out as a pinch-hitter Wednesday. He had a strong spring training, then was excused from the last exhibition game for personal reasons.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Tampa Bay outfielder Johnny Damon, who helped the Boston Red Sox end an 86-year title drought by winning the 2004 World Series, in which Ramirez was the Most Valuable Player.
“I don’t know everything that’s been brought up. All I know is he’s a great teammate and a great player,” Damon said, when asked specifically about the steroid allegations. “It’s going to be sad not seeing Manny Ramirez ever around a baseball field.”
Copyright Associated Press