Contract altered, Hernandez eager to rejoin Tribe

Contract altered, Hernandez eager to rejoin Tribe

NEW YORK -- The Indians are still unclear about when Roberto Hernandez might be able to return to the United States, but the ballclub is beginning to sound more optimistic that the pitcher could rejoin the team in the near future.

"He's anxious to come up here and be part of it," Indians manager Manny Acta said on Tuesday. "He wins and loses with us, even if he's far away. And we are expecting him to come up here sooner rather than later."

Hernandez -- arrested on Jan. 19 in the Dominican Republic for using the false name Fausto Carmona -- remains in his home country, awaiting a visa from the U.S. State Department. Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said the organization has cooperated fully with the government during the process.

Antonetti said he spoke on Tuesday with Stephen Payne, a visa expert and lobbyist hired by Hernandez's representatives, about the ongoing process. The GM also noted that Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman have reached out to the State Department.

"We've done everything we can," Antonetti said. "We've petitioned to the State Department and have given them all the information that they wanted on Roberto and his history with us, and some of the things he's done since the information came out."

Antonetti also expressed confidence that Hernandez might not face a suspension from Major League Baseball upon returning to the United States. Last month, Marlins pitcher Juan Carlos Oviedo -- mired for eight months in a similar false-identity situation -- received an eight-week suspension from MLB.

The difference between the cases is Hernandez (53-66 with a 4.59 ERA over six seasons with the Tribe) drastically reworked his contract with Cleveland.

"Our understanding at this point," Antonetti said, "is that, because he's restructured his contract, there won't be an additional suspension required. That could change, but that's the guidance we've been given at this point. There just aren't any absolutes."

For now, Hernandez continues to work out and throw simulated games at the Indians' academy in the D.R. Cleveland has monitored the right-hander's progress via video and has organized a throwing program that should have him ready to contribute shortly after he earns a visa. Hernandez would likely need to log a few Minor League starts before rejoining the Indians' rotation.

"It's certainly a possibility that he could be back in the United States by the All-Star break," Antonetti said. "But I can't sit here and say with certainty that that's going to happen. Until he's actually granted his visa and permitted access to the United State, no one really knows for sure."