Pitcher having visa issues
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The general chronology of spring training is that it starts with a set of assumptions, that many of those assumptions will be shattered over the ensuing six weeks and that those original assumptions will have long been forgotten by the time the regular season begins. This year, in Dodgers camp, one of those assumptions was that right-hander Ronald Belisario was a lock for the Opening-Day roster following a rookie season in which he posted a sterling 2.04 ERA in 69 relief appearances.
Alas, that assumption didn't last the first two weeks.
Although he is expected to arrive at any time, Belisario still hasn't reported. He remains stuck in his native Venezuela because of continued visa issues, issues that are close to being resolved but aren't quite there yet. But because he is tardy for the second year in a row, he already will be in the organizational doghouse the minute he sets foot at Camelback Ranch.
And because he will be several days behind everyone else on his throwing program, that allegedly guaranteed roster spot will be anything but.
If [the first baseman doesn't] hit 35 home runs, can you produce enough runs? And the answer is, well, it depends on the rest of your club.” -- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti
"It is starting to disappoint me," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Wednesday. "As far as the club goes, we have a lot of good arms in camp. We're going to leave here with our best possible [pitching] staff. If he is a part of that group, he is a part of it. If he isn't, he isn't."
The primary sticking point for Belisario, 27, is a drunk-driving charge stemming from a traffic stop last summer in Pasadena, for which the court date has been repeatedly postponed. Because the matter hasn't been resolved, an extra step is added to the procedure for obtaining a work visa. Presumably, Belisario knew that the procedure would be prolonged when he went home for the winter, but for whatever reason, he still waited too long to begin the process.
Because of the DUI charge, the visa application was sent back from Washington to Venezuela for some additional clarification, and then sent back to Washington for final approval. Once that approval is granted -- that, apparently, is what Belisario is presently waiting for -- Belisario would be permitted to enter the U.S. within a couple of days.
"I think it's tied up in Washington," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I'm not sure he can do anything about it at this point. I'm not saying that was always the case, but that is where it is now."
Torre initially said the fact Belisario's throwing program is being delayed is mitigated somewhat by the fact he played winter ball in Venezuela. But the winter-ball season has now been over for more than a month, and each day Belisario doesn't show up in camp, he falls further behind the other relievers.
"While he is sitting in Venezuela, other people are here trying to make the club," Colletti said. "Maybe one of them will take food off his table."
The situation ultimately could cost Belisario a considerable amount of money, as well. He has only one year of big-league service time, meaning he will have a split contract with a major-league salary of no more than about $415,000 this season, and he won't even get that much if he is in the minors.
There also is a provision, known as Regulation 6, in the current Basic Agreement between owners and the players' union that would allow the Dodgers to suspend Belisario without pay and require him to stay behind in extended spring training when the team breaks camp if he doesn't report at least 33 days before the start of the season.
The Dodgers' season opener is April 5 at Pittsburgh, meaning Belisario already has missed that deadline and the Dodgers already have that option.
"In the event of the failure of the Player to report for practice or to participate in the exhibition games, as required or provided for," the regulation reads, "he shall be required to get into playing condition to the satisfaction of the Club's team manager, and at the Player's own expense, before his salary shall commence."
The phrase "to the satisfaction of the Club's team manager" means the length of such a suspension would be entirely at the Dodgers' discretion.
Belisario also was several days late arriving last year, although it was less of a story at the time because he was a non-roster invitee who had never pitched above the Double-A level and wasn't expected to be a candidate to make the club. He wound up being one of the first players reassigned to minor league camp. He then made the Opening-Day roster only after pitching well in a couple of late-spring Cactus League games on days when he was on loan from the minor league side.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com