Tribe's Hernandez acquires visa, on way to Cleveland
Right-hander serving three-week suspension for falsifying identity
CLEVELAND -- Help is on the way for the Indians' struggling pitching staff.
Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, has successfully acquired his visa to return to the United States and will join the team in Cleveland on Sunday. Hernandez will address the media on Sunday morning and throw for the coaching staff before beginning a Minor League assignment.
The league announced Saturday that Hernandez will have to serve a three-week suspension for engaging in age and identity fraud, making him eligible to return to the Indians active roster on Aug. 11. Hernandez was arrested on Jan. 19 outside the United States consulate in Santo Domingo, D.R., while attempting to renew his visa so he could join the Indians for Spring Training.
The Indians had hoped to avoid a suspension when they worked with Hernandez to restructure his contract during Spring Training. Hernandez, who is three years older than his listed age of 28, agreed to give up a significant amount of money in the restructured contract.
In a similar situation, Miami right-hander Juan Carlos Oviedo -- formerly Leo Nunez -- was suspended for eight weeks after being arrested for the same offense. Oviedo, however, did not renegotiate his contract with the Marlins.
The suspension shouldn't hurt the Indians too much, though, considering Hernandez will need time to get ready to pitch at the big league level again. Hernandez has been pitching at the team's baseball academy in his native D.R., and he was able to work up to five innings and 75 pitches before he left. Hernandez last pitched for the Indians last season, when he went 7-15 with a 5.25 ERA.
"[The suspension] doesn't have much of an impact at this point," said Indians general manager Chris Antonetti. "Roberto has put in a lot of work in the Dominican, so he's not beginning the process from the start. It's not a typical Spring Training. He'll just need to build up his volume from there."
Antonetti said Hernandez will make three or four Minor League starts before returning to the team. If he is able to work his way back to Cleveland after three weeks, he could help bolster a starting rotation that has struggled this season. Veteran Derek Lowe, in particular, has had a rough time over his last 10 starts after winning six of his first seven decisions to start the season.
Hernandez has been a solid starter in his career with the Indians. His best season came in 2007, when he went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA, and he has a career record of 53-66.
"I'm excited. I'm happy for him," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "Right now, we could use a guy that can go out there every five days and give us an opportunity to compete.
"He was getting antsy. He was living and dying with us every day, the wins and losses and everything. He wanted to be part of it. He never got down on his hope of coming over. I never felt any sign of him thinking about it wasn't going to happen and giving up on the workouts or anything like that."
Antonetti said Hernandez's return won't impact the team's strategy at the July 31 Non-Waiver Trade Deadline. The Indians continue actively looking to make improvements as they remain in the playoff race. They entered Saturday three games behind the White Sox for first place in the American League Central.
"Obviously, you can never have enough pitching," Antonetti said. "We look at it as an opportunity to add another very talented pitcher to our Major League team, but I don't think that will limit our search."
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.