Juan Carlos Oviedo, the relief pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez, is a big step closer to getting his career back on track with the Marlins.
According to a major league source and published reports, Oviedo received a pardon from the U.S. State Department Wednesday and must now wait to receive a visa from the U.S. consulate in the Dominican Republic in the coming days to return to the Marlins.
Once he arrives, though, the 30-year old right-hander must serve an eight-week suspension with major league baseball for faking his identity when he signed with the Pirates in 2000. Oviedo, third on the Marlins all-time saves list with 92, has been on baseball's restricted list since last September and will not receive any of the $6 million he is due until the suspension is over.
It still isn't clear when exactly Oviedo will return to South Florida, but teammate Edward Mujica said Wednesday that when he spoke to Oviedo on Monday Oviedo told him it would likely be June 1st.
The Marlins told reporters they had nothing to say yet about the matter because "nothing had been finalized." But when Marlins President David Samson was asked by local radio station 790TheTicket on Wednesday if he expected Oviedo to be a part of the team's bullpen later this season Samson said: "Yes."
"When he reports, after that, there will be a period of time that he will not be with us," Samson told 790 AM. "We're not really counting on him for quite a while... The way it's supposed to work, he's supposed to get a visa, call us to say he has a visa. We make a flight to get him to Florida so he can report and start doing stuff with him, and wait to hear what's next. We haven't even got to the first part yet, but I did just read about him getting on. So when there's smoke there's fire. But we have not gotten that first call."
Manager Ozzie Guillen said before Wednesday's game that he felt for Oviedo because he was a victim of a tough situation in the Dominican in which players over 18 years of age have trouble getting signed because the push is to sign younger players.
"People who criticize that situation are people who have never lived in that situation," Guillen said. "You want to live it? Go out there and spend a month, not an [expletive] weekend. Go there for a weekend and you have a couple beers and say 'Oh this is nice.' Go there for three months, four months and live the life they live and you'll see why they're doing this."
The Marlins have said in the past they envision using Oviedo as a set-up man for closer Heath Bell. Asked it about Wednesday, Guillen said he would have to see Oviedo first before figuring out where to use him.
"Either way, our ballclub is going to be better -- if he pitches like he did in the past," Guillen said. "It's like making a trade in July."
Said Mujica: "I'm definitely happy for him. We need him on the team. His chemistry especially. In the bullpen, I'm the only Latin guy now."
-- Miami Herald staff writers Frances Robles, Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer contributed to this report