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Oviedo returns to Marlins, Beinfest talks shop

JUPITER -- For the first time in his career, Juan Carlos Oviedo will get to put on a baseball jersey with his real name on it.

JC Oviedo, Larry Beinfest address the media in Jupiter

And even though it will take place Wednesday on a backfield at the Marlins spring training facility in front of no one other than a few minor league development coordinators, the eight grueling months he's waited to savor it will be worth it for the 30-year old Dominican-born relief pitcher.

"There are no words to explain how happy I am to have my father's name," Oviedo said Tuesday, a day after returning to South Florida with a new visa and being suspended by Major League Baseball for eight weeks for going by the assumed identity of his best friend, Leo Nunez, for the last 12 years.

"My father is gone now [passed away in spring 2011]. But that's what he wanted -- to see that my name is Oviedo. My brothers and my mom are happy, too."

Oviedo, who spent the past eight months in the Dominican Republic trying to resolve the identity issue, was contrite Tuesday morning over the fiasco.

Wearing a white t-shirt and jeans, he answered questions in Spanish for about 10 minutes about what it was like to sit at home in the Dominican and watch his teammates on TV (he admitted he often changed the channel). He talked about losing his closer's job to Heath Bell, and how he can't wait to participate in the team's Lo Viste hand gestures with close friends Emilio Bonifacio, Edward Mujica and Hanley Ramirez.

But mainly, Oviedo said, he's just focused on rejoining his teammates and getting back on the mound in the big leagues. That won't happen again, of course, until July 23rd at the earliest -- the day after his eight-week suspension runs out.

In the meantime, Oviedo will participate in extended spring training before the Marlins are allowed to send him for one rehabilitation assignment to a minor-league affiliate that cannot exceed 16 days. That is expected to happen at the end of his suspension so he can prepare for an eventual return to the team.

"His name has changed, but I'm hoping the stuff is the same. And we think it is," said Larry Beinfest, the team's President of Baseball Operations, who along with general manager Mike Hill were in Jupiter Tuesday to accompany Oviedo.

"He has plenty of time to get ready. You can see he's in great shape. He'll just work backwards. Jeff Schwartz is our [Gulf Coast League] rehab coordinator, pitching coordinator. Oviedo will work with him, [pitching coach] Randy [St. Claire], [minor league trainer] Gene Basham and they'll get him ready. He has a ways to go."

Even though at times he worried his career might be over, Oviedo said he spent all of his time in the Dominican preparing for a return. He said he threw bullpens, lifted weights and ran. He'll do more of the same until he can get into some games.

"We'll be able to create some things for him," Beinfest said. "Obviously, not game situations. But we'll do some simulated games. We have coordinators here on site. We'll have some other rehabbers here on site. There's plenty of work to be done here on site."

So what role will Oviedo be put in once his suspension is over? Apparently, anything but closer.

"We have a closer," Beinfest said referring to Heath Bell. "I know he's been in the news quite a bit. Did a good job [Monday]. But he's our closer. When JC returns whether it's setup or seventh inning or specialist or whatever it is, it's an awful good arm and he'll find a home out there.

"And you know things happen over the course of a season. Hopefully those things won't happen and he'll be ready to go in a couple months and it could be a big boost. That's an awful big arm with a lot of experience to add at the end of July."

MORE NOTES FROM BEINFEST

> When can we expect to see Gaby Sanchez again in the big leagues?

"We're keeping an eye on him," Beinfest said. "We want him to be confident and comfortable. Gaby's always hit. That's been his big tool. He hit in the minor leagues. He pretty much hit immediately when he came to the major leagues. For him not to hit is a little bit off the tracks and not something we anticipated. Let's get him really feeling good about himself and comfortable. I don't know what that timetable is. I think his 10th day is coming up today or tomorrow. We'll see from there. Logan is doing a fine job at first and his bat looks like it's waking up a little bit. We'll take it as a positive and do what we got to do.  

> Even though the Marlins are 19-8 in May, are there things that can be done to upgrade this team? 

"There are always things that can be done," Beinfest said. "I think we believe in our talent. Some of the struggles with some of the players we didn't anticipate. I don't think we've seen this team play up to its potential, which I think is a good thing in a lot of ways. There's room for improvement. Maybe we can really get it going. We played all those close games in the beginning of the month and then kind of really have been consistent the last two weeks of the month. Whether that's changes or not, I don't know. It's till May. We'll see as we get closer.

"We'd like to see some of the guys who performed in the big leagues get back to the level they've already done up here. Gaby is in the minor leagues and that's not really great. Coghlan was down in the minor leagues and that's not great. Buck has struggled. You can go through the lineup and Bell struggled at times. Even Mike Stanton struggled through the first month of the season. You'd just like to get that consistently going and have guys live up to their potential. Then, I think we'll be fine. Because we like the talent we have on the field."

Comments

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spitballer

As for Gaby....didn't he play catcher with the Canes??
He should give catching a try while down in NOLA. There is definately an opportunity at that position.

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laurelbowie

I still think Oviedo would be a great piece of a trade package that could help the Marlins land a catcher or possibly another outfield bat. Guess I'm dreaming, but wouldn't it be great if the Brewers would take Gaby, Oviedo and maybe a minor leaguer or two for Lucroy, who should be off the DL by the time Oviedo is available?

spitballer

lb..whatever needs we have going in July....we will definately have some pieces to make a big trade happen.

Stan M

LB, would love to see the team develop a package to improve. Gabby really isn't in the team's long term plans and Oviedo is overqualified and overpaid to be a setup man. In my opinion, we have a surfeit of outfieldera and Smolinski, a RH bat has been moved from 2B to LF and should be about ready. And Yelich should be up in 2014. And frankly, I'm very impressed with Kearns. Our real hole is at catcher and I think it is there that we must concentrate. Could be wrong, but I think it would take a great deal more to get Lucroy. Almost any major league regular would be an improvement to some degree.

laurelbowie

Stan M,
I agree that a catcher is the Marlins' number one need. Also agree that the Marlins have lots of outfielders, if you're just talking about bodies to throw out there. But it would be great to have one more bat with some pop to help protect Stanton, because with guys like Coghlan, Petersen and Buck hitting behind him, it won't be long before he's not getting anything at all to hit. I'm actually surprised that anybody's still pitching to him now.
Anyway, speaking of catchers, I was watching TVG (a horse racing network) the other day and there was our old friend Paul Lo Duca. His current gig is doing televised horse racing analysis and he handled himself very well. I remember that he owned some race horses when he played for the Marlins and Mets, so I guess he's made that his new career.

Glags

About Lucroy, couldn't this years performance just be an anomaly much like Buck's 2010 season. I agree that the catcher position has been lacking for a while now. However, if they're going to package players I'd prefer they'd go after the best available option regardless of position. There aren't any catchers worth a lick that aren't in teams that are in contention. The exception is Joe Mauer but I doubt the twins are looking to dump his salary already.I'd rather they a get Lahair from the Cubs or better yet Rizzo but that's going to cost an arm and a leg. Even if they were to rent Carlos Lee for a couple months at the right price would be acceptable. The Astros could just re-sign him as a free agent. Would anyone be opposed to bringing back the hammer?

laurelbowie

Glags,
Lucroy is a career .274 hitter, so his .345 (or whatever) this year is certainly a slight aberration. But even at .274, he's light-years better than what the Fish have now.
Hammer has been playing great. Only downside is that he's been plagued with injuries his entire career, and at $7 million a year, he's a roll of the dice. I love the guy, though, so since it's not my money, I'd say go for it.

Glags

I suppose you're right. If it stays 1-0 Buck single handedly lost the game.

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