CLEVELAND: Roberto Hernandez faced reporters for the first time Sunday since he was cited by the Dominican Republic for using a false identity and denied a work visa by the Uniited States.
Last week, the State Department issued him a work permit, and Hernandez became free to pitch for the Indians, but not until he serves a three-week suspension imposed by Major League Baseball.
“”It feels great to be here,’’ Hernandez said through his translator, Charisse Dash, one of his agents. “”I want to say that I’m sorry to the fans here, but I’m excited to be back. I apologize to the fans, my teammates, the team and everyone who looked up to me ’’
Why did he do it?
“”I wanted a chance to sign with a big-league club. I wasn’t going to be able to sign otherwise.’’
It has been commonplace through the decades for Dominican baseball aspirants to make themselves younger, 17 or 18, to scouts who would bypass them if they were any older.
Did Hernandez, 31, worry that he would be discoveredt?
“”I tried not to think about it, but I knew that some day people would find out,’’ he said.
Asked his worst moments, Hernandez said, “”My trips to the consulate to see whether they would let me get a visa.’’
How many of those trips did he make?
“”I can’t even remember,’’ he said. ‘’
Manny Acta, who talked to Hernandez periodically the past several months, was pleased that he looked ready to play.
“”It’s great to see him,’’ Acta said. “”I was very impressed by his physical shape. I know he was getting antsy, and at times he got discouraged.’’
Hernandez is scheduled to throw a bullpen today then go on a rehabilitation assignment during the suspension.
He is eligible to play Aug. 11, and presumably he will be given a spot in the rotation at that time.