Saturday, February 21, 2009
Rijo leaves camp after hoax uncovered
VIERA, Fla. -- Washington Nationals special assistant Jose Rijo is taking a leave of absence after a Major League Baseball investigation revealed a prospect he discovered was older than originally believed.
Rijo, a former top pitcher in the majors, now works under Nats general manager Jim Bowden. Team president Stan Kasten said Rijo is still employed by the club.
"Jose is on a leave of absence, and with all the questions around camp and with what's going on behind the scenes, we thought rather than be a distraction, he is better off away from camp," Kasten said Saturday.
"Plus, his mom really is quite ill, so it's time for him to be somewhere else," he said.
On Wednesday, it was announced that prospect Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez of the Dominican Republic lied about his age and name. Rijo has been credited with spotting Gonzalez about two years before the Nationals signed him.
Gonzalez received a $1.4 million signing bonus in 2006 when the Nationals signed what they thought was a 16-year-old shortstop. At the time, Bowden compared Gonzalez to Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.
The Nationals had been listing his date of birth as Sept. 21, 1989, which would make him 19. But Kasten said an MLB investigation determined Gonzalez is actually Carlos David Alvarez Lugo, who was born in November 1985 -- meaning he is really 23.
While Kasten said there were "a number of people involved" in the hoax, he would not say whether anyone employed by the Nationals is suspected of playing a role.