Hernandez may be able to avoid suspension

Hernandez may be able to avoid suspension

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are hoping that the restructuring of Roberto Hernandez's contract will allow the pitcher to avoid a suspension in the wake of his false-identity case.

On Monday, a report by ESPN's Pedro Gomez indicated that both Hernandez and Marlins pitcher Juan Oviedo could face up to six-week suspensions once they have their respective visa issues resolved. Both have remained in the Dominican Republic since it was discovered that they had been using false identities.

The Indians declined to comment.

Cleveland recently restructed the contract of Hernandez, who was arrested on Jan. 19 outside the American consulate in Santo Domingo, where he was attempting to renew his visa to join the ballclub for Spring Training. It was then revealed that he had been using the name Fausto Carmona and was actually 31 years old, not 28, as the team believed.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic dropped the charges against him in exchange for the completion of a work program there. He is now awaiting a waiver or visa from the U.S. that would allow him to return to the Indians. He will remain on Major League Baseball's restricted list until he rejoins the club.

Under the circumstances, the Indians negotiated a new contract for Hernandez that will reduce his salary by an estimated $7.5 million if he remains with the club for the next two years. His 2012 salary has been lowered, to $2.5 million (plus incentives) from $7 million, and his $9 million club option for 2013 is now $6 million. His 2014 club option has been eliminated.

Part of the reasoning behind the altering of the original contract was the hope that it would help Hernandez avoid further punishment from Major League Baseball.

"I'm somewhat familiar with the negotiations between the Indians and Roberto," Stephen Payne, a visa expert and lobbyist hired by Hernandez's agents, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Monday. "I feel there was a general understanding between all parties that the punishment would be a $7.5 million reduction in pay [as opposed to a suspension].

"The State Department could come back and ask for a suspension in addition to the reduction in salary that the Indians and Roberto have agreed to."

Hernandez signed with the Indians as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in December 2000, when the team thought he was 17. Over six seasons with the Tribe, the right-hander has gone 53-66 with a 4.59 ERA. In 2011 he served as the Indians' Opening Day starter, but he ended the year 7-15 with a 5.25 ERA in 32 outings.

In September, Oviedo was forced to return to the Dominican Republic after it was discovered that he had been playing under the assumed name of Leo Nunez. He admitted to using false documents in order to sign a professional contract.

As does Hernandez, Oviedo remains on the restricted list. The Marlins signed him to a $6 million contract to avoid arbitration over the winter, but neither Miami nor Cleveland will have to pay the pitchers until they are back in the U.S. and activated by their respective teams.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.