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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."


> 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."