Criminal charges against 'Carmona' dropped
Right-hander remains in Dominican Republic awaiting visa
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Roberto Hernandez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, has cleared one hurdle in his fight to return to the United States and pitch for the Indians.
Prosecutors in the Dominican Republic agreed to a deal with Hernandez on Monday to have the false identity charges against him dropped in exchange for the completion of a work program in his home country, according to The Associated Press. Hernandez remains on Major League Baseball's restricted list.
It is not immediately clear what the latest development means for Hernandez's potential return to the Cleveland rotation.
"We continue to monitor the developments related to Roberto's return to the United States and remain in touch with his representatives," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti wrote in an e-mail. "We are not able to elaborate beyond that at this point."
Hernandez was arrested on Jan. 19 outside the U.S. consulate in Santo Domingo, where he planned to apply for a visa in order to head to Spring Training. It was revealed that he had been using another person's name and was really 31 years old -- not 28 as the Indians believed. The pitcher turned in his passport and has been confined to the his native country during the investigation.
Even with the charges reportedly dropped, Hernandez would still need to obtain a visa before returning to the United States. When the pitcher does rejoin the Indians, it is possible that he might face a suspension from Major League Baseball.
In the meantime, Hernandez will remain on the restricted list, meaning he does not receive pay and does not count against the Tribe's 40-man roster. Indians manager Manny Acta noted last week that Hernandez has been working out in the Dominican Republic, building up his pitches in a similar manner as pitchers in Spring Training.
Hernandez has also been spending time speaking to youths in the Dominican Republic about the pitfalls of using a false identity and lying about their age in order to be more attractive to Major League evaluators.
The birth date listed for "Fausto Carmona" was Dec. 7, 1983, which would have made him 17 years old when he signed with the Indians as an undrafted free agent in 2000. It is possible that Hernandez was actually as old as 20 when he first pitched in Cleveland's farm system.
The right-handed sinkerballer broke in with the Indians as a reliever in 2006, and he finished fourth in the American League Cy Young balloting after going 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA in the 2007 campaign. He's been erratic over the last few seasons, notching a 33-48 record and a 5.01 ERA in 111 starts between 2008 and 2011.
Over the winter, the Indians picked up his $7 million club option for the 2012 season, though he will not see any of that salary until he is activated from the restricted list. The Tribe also holds club options on his contract for 2013 and 2014.
Last season, Hernandez went 7-15 with a 5.25 ERA in 32 starts after beginning the year as the Indians' Opening Day starter. Heading into the 2012 season, he projected to work within the Nos. 3-5 slots in the rotation. Justin Masterson is penciled in as the Opening Day starter this year, with Ubaldo Jimenez, Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin also in the fold.
With Hernandez out of the picture for the time being, the Indians are holding a competition for the lone vacancy on the starting staff. As things stand right now, the four candidates for that job include Kevin Slowey, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff and Zach McAllister.