Uribe says he may miss season

Uribe says he may miss season

When news of Juan Uribe's alleged involvement in a shooting in the Dominican Republic first surfaced back in mid-October, Ken Williams stood strong in the corner of his starting shortstop as "not the kind of kid" who would be part of such a situation.

The White Sox general manager also took a wait-and-see approach in regards to Uribe's availability to the team for the 2007 season.

"If he happens to go to jail, I'll be looking for another shortstop," said Williams back in October. "I have not been given any reason to be worried just yet."

Uribe might have provided that reason for worry on Friday. According to The Associated Press, Uribe said he might sit out the 2007 season after a judge ordered him to make twice-monthly court appearances in this particular Dominican shooting case.

"I am going to decide if I am playing in the Major Leagues or not this year," Uribe told The Associated Press, though he did not say when he would make the decision. "It looks very ugly to be accused of something.

"But first I am going to resolve this, and then I will go to the Major Leagues," Uribe added.

The case involves Uribe, his brother and a friend, who were all questioned following a shooting that took place on the weekend of Oct. 13 and wounded a Dominican farmer in the city of Juan Baron. Antonio Gonzalez Perez, the farmer in question, claims Uribe pulled out a pistol and began to fire after a dispute. An Italian naval officer assigned to the base in The Kettles, Bani -- Uribe's hometown -- also was shot, but he elected not to file charges.

District attorney Robert Lugo said in November that he had no evidence that Uribe was involved, but a judge decided to move forth with the case last month. Per Friday's order, Uribe, who has claimed innocence from the very start of this case, must appear in Dominican court on the 15th and 30th of every month until the case is resolved. A defense motion to prevent the baseball player from leaving the country was denied, although Uribe said on Friday that the case was likely to force him to miss the start of Spring Training.

White Sox pitchers and catchers report to Tucson, Ariz., on Feb. 17, and position players report five days later. Williams was traveling on Friday and was unavailable for comment, while Martin Arburua, Uribe's agent and attorney, did not return a phone call in regard to Uribe's situation. A spokesman for the White Sox said Williams would reach out to Uribe on Saturday to talk about his comments made on Friday, but the team expected him to be available for Spring Training.

Despite Uribe's average dipping to .235 last season and his patience at the plate coming under question once again with 82 strikeouts and just 13 walks in '06, the 27-year-old was still thought of as a key component for the 2007 squad. Uribe's defense is considered to be virtually unparalleled in baseball at his position by the White Sox, and even in an off-year for him offensively, Uribe still knocked out 21 home runs and produced 71 RBIs. His production came mostly hitting out of the eighth or ninth spot in the lineup for most of the 2006 campaign.

In a conversation with MLB.com about Uribe's offense prior to the end of 2006, hitting coach Greg Walker sounded optimistic about the shortstop's chance to bounce back.

"Uribe can get better," Walker said. "Will he end up leading the league in walks? No chance. But he can get better, and we will figure out ways to help him out."

Alex Cintron, 28, who agreed to a one-year, $1.9 million deal in late December, probably would move into the starting lineup at shortstop if Uribe decided not to play -- barring a trade. The switch-hitting Cintron posted a .285 average with five home runs and 41 RBIs over 288 at-bats last season. Rookie Andy Gonzalez could fill the void at the utility infield position, with Pablo Ozuna also having the ability to play shortstop.

Manager Ozzie Guillen has pointed out in the past that the White Sox are a far stronger team with both Cintron and Ozuna coming off the bench.

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