- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ST. LOUIS | Before Manny Ramirez made his well-publicized and popular return to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lineup earlier this month, the suspended slugger played two games for minor league affiliates as part of a rehab assignment that was equally well-publicized and popular.

Thanks to a provision in the drug-punishment rules agreed to by Major League Baseball and the players union, players serving a 50-game suspension for a positive test are allowed to play up to 10 games on rehab stints before returning to the majors.

If commissioner Bud Selig has his way, that provision won’t be included in the next collective bargaining agreement, due to be negotiated in 2011.

“To be very candid, I believe that should be changed,” Selig said Tuesday during a luncheon with members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. “Their logic was OK. Guys get hurt; they can go out on rehab. But I think that’s something we really need to change in the next labor negotiation.”

Michael Weiner, soon to become the union’s new chief after Don Fehr retires, told the Associated Press that his organization “will respond appropriately to any bargaining proposals advanced by the commissioner.”

Though relations between the owners and players association have improved in recent years, there are several hot-button topics that could threaten the relationship, particularly recent suggestion by several agents that the union should investigate whether owners colluded last winter to keep free agent salaries down.

“Given the world we live in and what’s happened in the last 18 months, I think this is one sport where I can’t even fathom that anybody could think that,” Selig said in denying the claim.

Pointing out that the average salary of a big leaguer this season is $3.2 million, the commissioner said: “I rest my case. They can say whatever they want to say. I wouldn’t even waste my time reacting to that.”

Longoria out, Figgins in

Evan Longoria was among the leading vote-getters at any position this year and was looking forward to starting at third base for the American League.

But the Tampa Bay Rays’ young star had to withdraw from the All-Star Game on Tuesday morning because of an infection on his right ring finger that progressively got worse in recent days. So instead of starting, Longoria found himself on the sideline cheering on his teammates.

“Obviously, you don’t come to an All-Star Game and want to sit on the bench and watch,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate. It would be a disservice to them to go out there and try and play and win a game when I’m not up to full health.”

AL manager Joe Maddon chose to start the Rangers’ Michael Young at third base in Longoria’s place. The open roster spot then went to Angels utilityman Chone Figgins, who hopped on a flight from Southern California as soon as he could and was scheduled to land in St. Louis about two hours before first pitch.

“I think about 5:20 [p.m.] on the ground and then a special escort over here to Busch Stadium,” Maddon said earlier in the afternoon. “He’s going to see if he can beat the president.”

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