Uncertainty clouds Simon situation as Orioles pitcher prepares to travel to Dominican

What's certain is that Orioles right-hander Alfredo Simon is scheduled to start against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night before heading to his native Dominican Republic on Sunday. What's uncertain is what comes next for Simon.

The team hopes Monday's hearing in the Jan. 1 shooting death of Simon's cousin will be the end of the case, but based on how things have progressed this year, the Orioles aren't sure what will happen.

"We simply don't know. It's a legal process," Orioles director of player development John Stockstill said. "They are handling it down there, and we'll find out when it is over."

The Orioles will put Simon, 30, on the restricted list Sunday when he heads to the Dominican, and the club hopes that by early next week — maybe as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday — he will have returned to the team. It's possible he won't miss a turn in the rotation if the Orioles continue to use him in that role after his scheduled start Saturday. But the club is taking nothing for granted.

"It is unique, but it is not something we can really influence," said Andy MacPhail, Orioles president of baseball operations. "We have to prepare our options for any scenario that may take place."

Simon, who has been in the Orioles' organization since Stockstill signed him as a free agent out of the Mexican League in 2008, has declined all comment about the incident after issuing a public apology in May to the club and its fans "for the recent distraction that my personal circumstances have caused."

His United States-based agent Phil Isaac has not returned calls since that time. Isaac, however, has maintained that Simon is innocent in the early New Year's Day shooting in the resort town of Luperon that killed Simon's cousin, Michel Esteban Castillo Almonte, and the wounding of Castillo Almonte's 17-year-old half-brother.

Simon acknowledges being at the celebration, in which guns were discharged in the air, and reportedly once called it an "accident" to authorities. Isaac, however, previously has said his client was "quite a distance" from where the incident occurred.

Within three days of the shooting, Simon surrendered his gun for ballistics tests and agreed to be questioned. Although no formal charges were filed, according to Simon's representatives, he was imprisoned for nearly two months while the case was investigated — which is permissible in the Dominican.

At the end of March, Simon was released from prison and allowed to secure a work visa and travel to the United States. Although it was reported in Dominican publications that he had agreed to a settlement with the victims' families, the government still had a calendar year to file criminal charges.

Since no charges were filed, Simon began the road back to the majors. He made his season debut May 24 with a scoreless inning against the Kansas City Royals and is 1-2 with a 4.85 ERA in eight games, including one start.

Asked this week whether the team had any reservations about taking Simon off the restricted list and placing him on the active roster in May, MacPhail said: "No. He hadn't been charged with anything."

Stockstill traveled to the Dominican days after the incident to get a better idea of what had happened and what Simon was facing. The club did not get involved in the legal proceedings, preferring to allow Simon's agents and Dominican attorneys to handle it.

"We were hopeful it would work out," Stockstill said. "But with the fact-finding mission, it was not our job to assess judgment or anything in this matter. We handled it by collecting the information and letting the process move forward. And we hope this will be the final part of this process."

Said MacPhail: "It's one of those situations where nobody wins."

Not many examples

There are very few precedents from which the Orioles could draw from during this process. In October 2005, former major league reliever Ugueth Urbina allegedly attacked five workers on his farm in Venezuela, brandishing a machete and dousing them in gasoline.

Two weeks earlier, he had pitched his final big league game with the Philadelphia Phillies and was considered a free agent when he was charged with attempted murder that November.

He was sentenced to 14 years and seven months in prison in 2009.

The last player to be active with a big league team when involved in a murder case overseas was former Houston Astros outfielder Cesar Cedeno in December 1973. According to reports, his girlfriend accidentally shot herself with his gun in a Dominican motel room.

Cedeno called authorities but then fled, turning himself in the next day, according to reports. He initially was charged with voluntary manslaughter and spent 20 days in jail. Eventually, the charge was lessened to involuntary manslaughter.

A budding star in the majors and a hero in the Dominican at the time, Cedeno was fined but didn't serve anymore prison time in the case and was back playing with the Astros that spring. He spent 17 seasons with four big league teams.

Travel issues

Professional athletes from outside the United States can face unique issues when confronted with possible charges.

"With athletes, it's a really serious situation because most have to cross borders just to play," said Atlanta immigration lawyer Dale Schwartz, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "They're not going to be able come back [into the United States] with a serious conviction on their record unless they get a waiver. "

Then there is the emotional toll of a pending case.

"Some of them were able to handle that emotionally because they thought they were innocent. Others were so arrogant that they didn't seem to care," Schwartz said.

Washington attorney Mark Tuohey represented former Oriole Miguel Tejada, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to a misdemeanor charge of misleading Congress regarding his knowledge of steroid use in baseball.

"Many of the athletes are resident aliens, and for them, particularly a felony conviction could be very complicating in terms of future ability to travel freely. It could involve deportation," Tuohey said. "Miguel's situation was misdemeanor. It was handled in a very professional manner, and his ability to travel was not impeded. But we took no chances."



Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.

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