Ramirez departs last-minute for Classic

Ramirez departs for Classic

BRADENTON, Fla. -- An unexpected wrench was thrown into the Reds' fifth starter battle.

Ramon Ramirez left on Monday to pitch for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. The request was last-minute and came on the day players were due to leave camps to report to their nation's squads.

"During the game [on Sunday], they called [general manager] Walt [Jocketty]," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He ended up leaving afterwards. It's a tough decision for the kid but I told him we understood, no problem. 'Just go pitch lights out.' He has a bona fide chance to make this club but who knows how many more chances he'll have to represent his country? That's a tough decision. We helped make it easier for him. He will be in their starting rotation."

Ramirez worked one game for the Reds this spring in a relief outing vs. the Twins on Thursday. He gave up five unearned runs after a two-out fielding error, including four on a grand slam. Overall, he allowed three hits.

Last season, Ramirez emerged late after getting some chances to start in the Majors. The 26-year-old was 1-1 with a 2.67 ERA in five games, including four starts and was 6-8 with a 3.59 ERA in 30 games, including 24 starts, with Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville.

While Ramirez is away, Micah Owings, Homer Bailey, Nick Masset, Daryl Thompson, Matt Maloney and others will be competing for the rotation vacancy.

The Reds' rotation already is doing without Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, who are pitching for the Dominican Republic. First baseman Joey Votto (Canada), catcher Ramon Hernandez (Venezuela), center fielder Willy Taveras (Dominican Republic), utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. (Mexico) and pitcher Pedro Viola (Dominican Republic) are among the Reds participating in the World Baseball Classic.

There was almost one more late addition for Team USA

"They talked about taking [Jay] Bruce but they took [Adam] Dunn instead," Baker said.

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