Oviedo, Marlins eyeing bullpen return in July
Reliever working at extended spring camp during suspension
JUPITER, Fla. -- While working to get a visa to return to the United States, Juan Carlos Oviedo followed the Marlins on TV from his home in the Dominican Republic. But there were times when he couldn't bear to watch.
"From one side, I was desperate. I want to be there with my colleagues," Oviedo said. "Many times I would turn the channel off, because I would feel a little sad with the things that happened."
In eight weeks, that feeling will turn to relief and joy.
Ovideo, formerly known as Leo Nunez, was discovered last year to be using a false identity. He acquired his visa on Friday following eight months of dealing with issues related to his identity. He reported to the Marlins' complex in Jupiter, where he will begin workouts at extended spring camp while serving an eight-week suspension handed down by Major League Baseball. The suspension, which went into effect Monday and runs through July 22, is for "engaging in age and identity fraud."
Oviedo, who was placed on the restricted list late last September and returned home to the Dominican Republic, understands the mistake he made in falsifying his identity and is prepared to serve the suspension. He's just happy to have his real name again -- as well as a second chance.
"There are no words to explain how happy I am that I have my name, my dad's name, who died, which is what he wanted for me," said Oviedo, who was contrite while speaking with the media on Tuesday. "Everybody makes a mistake and I made a mistake. ... Everybody in the world knows that I am Juan Carlos and I just want to play baseball."
The Marlins signed Oviedo to a one-year, $6 million contract in the offseason, and the right-hander will receive a prorated salary when he returns from the suspension.
His first workout is Wednesday, and then he will start extended spring while working with the Marlins' player development staff, including Minor League pitching coordinator Jeff Schwarz, training and rehabilitation coordinator Gene Basham and Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
During the offseason, Oviedo said he stayed in shape by running, working out and throwing bullpen sessions -- though he did not face any live hitters -- while in the Dominican Republic waiting for his legal issues to be resolved.
Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said Oviedo will participate in extended spring camp until they take a break for the First-Year Player Draft on June 4-6, and will pick up again following the break. Sixteen days before his suspension ends, Oviedo will be eligible for a rehabilitation assignment in the Minors, which Beinfest said could be with Class A Jupiter, Double-A Jacksonville or Triple-A New Orleans.
From 2009-11, Oviedo served as the Marlins' closer, recording 92 saves in 117 opportunities. He had 36 saves in 42 chances last season before being placed on the restricted list.
"His name changed, but I'm hoping his stuff is the same, and we think it is," Beinfest said.
But with the acquisition of Heath Bell in the offseason, Miami has a new closer this year, despite some early-season struggles. That means Oviedo could have a new role with the team as a setup man, a seventh-inning reliever or a specialist upon his return.
"It's an awful good arm and he'll find a home out there," Beinfest said. "That's an awful big arm with a lot of experience to add at the end of July."
No matter what his role with Miami is, Oviedo, who said he will still wear No. 46, is ready to put this behind him and return to the Marlins.
"I'm going to stay the same because it's me, it's my arm that pitches," Oviedo said. "I'm just going to continue to do my work like all these years, because there are a lot of fans that believe in me. I want to let them know I'm the same JC Oviedo. It's my arm and my body."
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.