CLEVELAND -- The Indians were blindsided by Thursday's news that the pitcher known to date as Fausto Carmona was arrested in the Dominican Republic for using a false identity. Cleveland is now scrambling to determine how to handle the situation. The pitcher's real name was reported to be Roberto Hernandez Heredia. "We were recently made aware of the situation that occurred today in the Dominican Republic," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said in a statement, "and are currently in the process of gathering information. We are not prepared to make any additional comment at this time."
The Indians pitcher was arrested while he was leaving the American consulate in Santo Domingo, where he had gone to renew his visa so he could return to the United States for Spring Training, police spokesman Maximo Baez Aybar told The Associated Press. The right-hander, entering his seventh Major League season, had been listed at 28 years old, but AP reported that he is believed to be 31. The entire situation is shrouded with uncertainty, forcing Indians president Mark Shapiro and Antonetti to evaluate options roughly one month before Spring Training begins for the Tribe in Goodyear, Ariz. Right now, it is unclear whether Carmona's arrest and visa woes will impact his availability for Spring Training or the season. Given the timing of his arrest, it seems highly unlikely that the pitcher will be able to be in Arizona by the Feb. 19 reporting date for Indians pitchers and catchers. A message was left with Carmona's agency, which did not respond as of Thursday evening. One possibility for the Tribe is to place Carmona, whose $7 million club option for 2012 was picked up on Oct. 31, on Major League Baseball's restricted list until the situation is resolved. Players on the restricted list do not count toward a team's 25-man or 40-man roster, do not receive pay and are not permitted to sign with another club. That was the route the Marlins took when dealing with a similar situation. In September, the pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez was forced to return to the Dominican Republic after it was discovered that he was playing under an assumed name. His real name was Juan Carlos Oviedo, and he admitted to using false documents in order to sign a professional contract. Oviedo remains on the restricted list and the pitcher is still sorting through visa issues, even though he has cooperated with investigators. The Marlins signed Oviedo to a $6 million contract to avoid arbitration on Tuesday, but the club does not have to pay the pitcher until he is back in the United States and off the restricted list. Right now, it is not known if the Indians would simply be able to void Carmona's contract, or if the club would go down that route if allowed. The Little League World Series also had a famous fake-identity scandal in 2001, when Danny Almonte was found to be 14 years old instead of 12, as he was listed on his birth records. But the practice is hardly restricted to baseball, and it's been around since long before the modern era. Another example of false identity in sports was the case of boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson. Robinson was born Walker Smith Jr., and he borrowed a friend's identity card in order to fight in a boxing tournament at the age of 14. Sixteen, at the time, was the minimum age for participation. Carmona's birth date has been listed as Dec. 7, 1983, which would have made him 17 years old when he signed with the Indians as a non-drafted free agent in 2000. It is possible that Carmona 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. The Indians hold club options on his contract for 2013 and 2014. Last season, the pitcher 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. Earlier this winter, the Indians acquired veteran sinkerballer Derek Lowe in a trade with the Braves, seemingly solidifying the five-man staff. Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez appeared set to fill the Nos. 1-2 jobs (not necessarily in that order), with Josh Tomlin and Lowe occupying two more spots. In light of Carmona's current dilemma, Cleveland might now have a vacancy for the fifth spot on the staff. The top candidates include lefty David Huff and righty Jeanmar Gomez, who both have Major League experience. Minor Leaguers Zach McAllister and Scott Barnes would be next on the Tribe's depth chart. It is unclear whether the Carmona situation might suddenly make the Indians a player for another starting pitcher this winter. Some of the remaining free agents include Edwin Jackson, Jeff Francis, Rich Harden, Brandon Webb, Chris Young and Kevin Millwood, among others. The Indians are known to be seeking another hitter -- possibly a first baseman -- to help the offense, but the club is limited somewhat with what it can do financially. As of right now, Cleveland is still working to determine whether reallocating Carmona's 2012 salary is one possibility.