July 31, 2014

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Indians: Hernandez back but facing suspension

CLEVELAND — The pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona is back in America, but Roberto Hernandez’s return to the Indians is on hold for at least three weeks.

The 31-year-old right-hander finally received a visa to leave the Dominican Republic, where he had been detained since January after being arrested and released on false identity charges. But Hernandez was suspended for three weeks by Major League Baseball — effective Saturday.

The Indians had hoped Hernandez would avoid a penalty after the pitcher restructured his contract in March, but the suspension is far from a significant blow. Hernandez, who is eligible to leave the suspended list Aug. 11, likely wouldn’t have returned in under three weeks.

All in all, it was a good day for Hernandez and the Indians, who will have the opportunity to enlist an experienced pitcher for their struggling rotation.

“I’m excited,” manager Manny Acta said. “We’re adding a guy that has been part of our rotation for the last few years, and right now, we could use a guy that can go out there every five days and give us an opportunity to compete.”

Hernandez was scheduled to arrive in Cleveland on Saturday night and will meet with reporters and throw a bullpen session today at Progressive Field.

“We’re obviously looking forward to having Roberto back in the organization,” general manager Chris Antonetti said. “He’s been a very successful major league starter and our expectations are that’s where he’ll be when he returns.”

Antonetti anticipated that it would take three or four minor league rehab outings for Hernandez to be ready for big league action.

“He’s tried to prepare as best as he could down at our complex in the Dominican for his transition here, so we’re hopeful that it will be as short as possible,” Antonetti said.

The Indians have monitored the progression of Carmona, who has pitched bullpens, simulated games and experienced real game action against Dominican prospects. For the most part, they are pleased with his physical condition.

“(It’s been) pretty much the same thing. He’s sinking the ball in the low to mid- 90s,” Acta said. “Nothing new, except that obviously competing against those kids isn’t as easy as competing with guys at this level.

“He’s healthy and he’s strong. That’s all that we can ask for. We have three weeks to see him better.”

Acta doesn’t believe the ordeal will affect Hernandez once he returns.

“I’m pretty sure that he’s going to feel a lot of weight off his shoulders,” he said. “But let’s not forget that he won 19 games in the past, and that two years ago he was an All-Star pitcher for us. I’m sure he’s going to feel a lot better, but I just don’t know if that translates on the mound because these guys at this level when they get out on the field they have that tunnel vision that can block that stuff out.”

The Indians had hoped Hernandez would be able to resolve the visa situation earlier, even thinking there was a chance he would make it to the states by the end of spring training.

“This is a new process for us and one where there isn’t a whole lot of precedent, so we really weren’t sure what to expect,” Antonetti said. “We continued to work with Roberto and his representatives to try to expedite it as quickly as we could. But in the end, it was in the hands of the state department, and they were the only entity that could dictate the time frame.”

 

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.