MILWAUKEE -- For more than 10 years, major leaguer Juan Carlos Oviedo pitched under the name of Leo Nunez. But, earlier this year, when Oviedo was at home in the Dominican Republic and preparing to head to Jupiter for the start of spring training with the Marlins, his dying father's final request was for him to come clean and regain his true identity.
Oviedo honored his late father's wish when he turned himself into authorities earlier this month, confessing that he had assumed the name and age of a boyhood friend in order to improve his marketability as a young baseball prospect. The pitcher formerly known as Nunez -- the Marlins' closer -- could now face criminal charges in his home country and has been placed on Major League Baseball's restricted list.
Reliever Edward Mujica said he spoke by phone late Friday night with Oviedo, who told him the story about his father, asked the pitcher to pass along his apologies to his Marlins teammates for what had happened, and playfully suggested that his old nickname -- "Nuny" -- no longer be used.
"Last night, when he called me, he goes 'Hey Mujica, how you doing?'" Mujica said. "And I say, 'What's up Nuny?' He told me, 'Hey man, I'm not Nuny anymore.'"
Mujica said most of their 5- to 10-minute conversation, however, was serious. He said that Oviedo was emphatic in wanting Mujica to pass along his apologies to teammates. Oviedo had pitched Wednesday in South Florida. On Thursday, as the Marlins were preparing to board their charter flight for Milwaukee, Oviedo was on his way back to the Dominican to meet with government officials and come clean about his identity.
Mujica said Oviedo told him that had been his father's desire.
"His father, he was pretty sick, he told him 'Get your real name back. Just get your real name,'" Mujica said.
When Oviedo's father died during spring training, the pitcher left the team for a few days and flew home to the Dominican to attend the funeral. The Marlins learned of Oviedo's identity issue a few months ago. On Sept. 7, Oviedo called the Dominican consulate in Miami and told them his secret.
"He said 'I had to do that for my dad,'" Mujica said. "That's why he did it."
Mujica said he has a new nickname for his friend and teammate.
"J.C.," Mujica said with a smile.
The Marlins are expected to confer with officials from Major League Baseball to plot a course of action with Oviedo as it relates to his salary arbitration status. Oviedo would have been eligible for his fourth and final season of arbitration and could have expected to receive a 2012 salary of around $6 million.
But all of that is now in limbo while the pitcher deals with his legal problems in the Dominican.
The Marlins don't yet know whether they have until the Dec. 2 deadline to tender Oviedo a contract, or whether they need to wait to see how his legal situation plays out before doing so. Though he is not on their 40-man roster, he remains in team control.