It is still unclear when Marlins relief pitcher Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez) will return to the United States, but Major League Baseball has decided that whenever he does return, he will have to wait an extra two weeks before returning to action on the field.
MLB has reportedly extended Oviedo's suspension for playing under a false identity from six weeks to eight weeks. The suspension will not begin until Oviedo receives his visa from the US government and rejoins the Marlins.
When it looked like Oviedo would be able to rejoin the Marlins during Spring Training, MLB informed the team it would suspend him for two weeks during Spring Training and six weeks of the regular season. Now that the season has started and Oviedo still has not returned to the US, MLB is simply transferring that two-week Spring Training suspension to the regular season.
Oviedo left the Marlins abruptly last September to turn himself in for playing under an assumed identity. He first assumed the identity of Leo Nunez (which belongs to a childhood friend) as a 17-year-old prospect, hoping to shave a year off his age and make himself more attractive a player to MLB scouts.
Oviedo was not charged with any crime by Dominican authorities, but he is still in the process of reacquiring a US visa. He must complete community service to receive a visa, and MLB officials do not know when he will get that visa.
The news complicates an already dicey bullpen situation for the Marlins. New closer Heath Bell, who signed a 3-year, $27 million contract last winter, has been downright awful so far this season. He has blown 3 saves in 7 appearances, posting a 9.53 ERA and walking 7 of 34 batters faced.
Oviedo was signed to a $6 million tender offer last winter, the Marlins had originally planned for him to set up for Bell. Having considerable closing experience himself, Oviedo could easily step in for Bell if his struggles go on any longer, but now the Marlins will have to wait until at least late June for that to even be an option.
If there is one silver lining for the Marlins, it is that they do not have to pay Oviedo anything until he rejoins the team and his suspension is over.