Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Ronald Belisario doesn't report
By Tony Jackson
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario, who didn't report to spring training with the rest of the team's pitchers and catchers on Wednesday, could be in jeopardy of missing the season, his agent said.
"I'm just not very optimistic," said Paul Kinzer, Belisario's Atlanta-based agent. "He just has a lot of things he needs to get straightened out. Right now, I'm not optimistic for him [returning] for the whole season."
Belisario was late reporting to camp for the third year in a row because of visa issues in his native Venezuela. Last year, he didn't arrive until about a week before Opening Day, resulting in him being placed on the restricted list until he finally was activated three weeks into the regular season.
Belisario then left the team for personal reasons in early July -- neither he, Kinzer, nor anyone in the Dodgers organization ever revealed the reason for that departure -- and was gone for a month. Asked on Wednesday if the reason Belisario's current problems securing a visa from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas is similar to the reason for his absence last summer, Kinzer said simply, "Yeah."
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said the club began fulfilling its responsibility as long ago as last fall in terms of the paperwork it was required to submit to the embassy in order to secure a visa for Belisario. But Colletti also said he fully prepared for the possibility that Belisario might again be a no-show and tailored many of his offseason personnel moves accordingly where relief pitching was concerned.
"When the season ended, I knew we could be walking this path again," Colletti said. "I had no misconceptions that this was going to be an easy bridge to cross. ... Knowing what we went through a year ago, including in-season, I can't say we built our bullpen with him in it. If he gets back and is in shape and can help our big league club win, we'll examine it. As of right now, we're not thinking about it.
"We will go forward as we are."
While offering no specifics as to the reason for Belisario's latest absence, both Kinzer and Colletti said the responsibility for it lies squarely on the pitcher.
"Ned and the Dodgers have done all they can do, and I have done all I can do," Kinzer said. "[Belisario] needs to get some things straightened out himself. It's all kind of in his corner right now."
It isn't exactly clear whether Belisario has actually been denied a U.S. visa. But if he has been denied, the appeals process is lengthy, which is why he was so late in arriving at spring training last year after initially being denied.
Belisario figured to once again be a key figure in the Dodgers bullpen this season, and scouts who saw him in the Venezuelan Winter League -- he posted a 1.00 ERA and 14 saves in 17 appearances for Margarita -- raved about how well he was throwing the ball there. But Dodgers manager Don Mattingly didn't seem terribly concerned about the possibility that Belisario won't be around anytime soon, if at all.
"One thing I do know is that if he isn't here, we will play with the guys we have," Mattingly said. "It's just like if somebody gets hurt. If Belly isn't here, if he doesn't show up, we have to worry about the guys we have here."
Neither Colletti nor Mattingly was willing to say the Dodgers are nearing a point of simply cutting ties with Belisario, even though the club could do so without owing him any money. The Dodgers also could return Belisario to the restricted list -- meaning he would remain under the club's control but wouldn't take up a 40-man roster spot -- and leave him there for as long as they choose. As long as he is on that list, Belisario would be prohibited from signing with any other club in the U.S. if he were ever allowed re-entry into the country.
"We haven't washed our hands of him, but we certainly aren't holding a spot for him," Colletti said. "I'm disappointed. This is his livelihood, from what I can determine. I would think he wants to be pitching in the big leagues. ... [But] at some point, the responsibility rests with the individual. The accountability rests with the individual. At some point, it's up to the individual. At this point, it's up to the individual."
Colletti also said that club officials haven't been able to reach Belisario for the past couple of weeks, but that before that, Dodgers scout Ron Rizzi, who routinely works the Venezuelan circuit, kept close tabs on Belisario during the course of Rizzi's normal offseason visit to the country.
Belisario posted a 2.04 ERA in 69 appearances for the Dodgers two years ago as a rookie, but his ERA ballooned to 5.04 in 59 games last year -- including 7.32 in the 24 appearances he made after returning in August from his unexplained, month-long absence.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.