Belisario nets visa, but must serve suspension
Commissioner's Office says reliever must sit out 25 games
LOS ANGELES -- Reliever Ronald Belisario, who obtained a visa this week to enter the United States from his native Venezuela and resume his Dodgers career, first must serve a 25-game suspension for violating the Joint Drug Program, according to the Commissioner's Office.
Suspensions of 25-games are generally meted out for failure to comply with treatment programs, and not for performance enhancing drugs. Belisario missed the entire 2011 season and remains on the club's restricted list.
The Dodgers, unconvinced that Belisario can be counted on after two years of personal problems that allegedly included substance abuse, continue negotiating with Mike MacDougal to round out their bullpen.
Belisario has been pitching in the Venezuela Winter League, where he has a 4.09 ERA in 22 appearances with five saves, five blown saves, 21 strikeouts, 15 walks, four hit batters and three wild pitches.
After wearing out his welcome as a Minor Leaguer with Florida and Pittsburgh -- he missed the 2005 season with Tommy John surgery and 2006 with an unspecified suspension -- Belisario was signed out of the Venezuela Winter League in 2009 as a free agent by former Dodgers scout Ron Rizzi (who recently left and was hired by Washington).
Belisario reported that Spring three weeks late with visa problems and was sent to Minor League camp after one Spring appearance. But he pitched lights-out in Minor League camp, got a second look with the Major League team at the end of March and made the Opening Day roster.
Belisario, 29 next week, became a workhorse that year, making 69 appearances with a 2.03 ERA. He threw a fastball in the mid-90s with a diving sinker.
But he was five weeks late to Spring Training with more visa problems in 2010, his status complicated by a driving under the influence charge in Pasadena in 2009. A disastrous sophomore year followed, one that included a month-long drug rehab and a whopping three-run increase in his ERA. The domino effect resulted in the overuse of Ramon Troncoso, effectively costing the club two effective relievers.
General manager Ned Colletti decided not to rely on Belisario in 2011, but it came at a high cost -- the signing of set-up man Matt Guerrier to a three-year, $12 million contract. Guerrier had a somewhat disappointing first season with the Dodgers, but at least he was there and took the ball. Belisario never got out of Venezuela -- again with visa problems and rumors of more drug issues -- and spent the entire season on the Dodgers restricted list.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.