In September, when Roberto Hernandez was still masquerading as Fausto Carmona he pitched a few games for the Cleveland Indians. Now he is on his way to Tampa Bay. Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Fausto Carmona Equals Roberto Hernandez


The pitcher formerly known as Prince resurfaced the other day, being signed by the Tampa Bay Rays. Oops, not Prince, but the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona (at least in the United States) surfaced the other day as the pitcher named Roberto Hernandez. And not only doesn’t sing, he is coming out of a three-year time warp, t0o.

Fausto Carmona (not his real name), got busted for using a false identity back home in the Dominican Republic earlier in 2012 and for seeking a U.S. visa under a fake name. His re-emergence, with a new, one-year, $3.2-million contract to move from the Cleveland Indians to the Rays culminates a year of living awkwardly for Carmona/Hernandez.

First, let it be noted that being signed by a Major League team and actually reaching the big leagues is akin to hitting the lottery for a young man growing up in the Dominican. Baseball is the king of sports in the island nation and anyone who makes the majors, even at the minimum contract level, moves into the top one percent of earners in the country. A player who has any success at all and makes bigger bucks, can not only set himself up for life, but his entire extended family, too.

For that reason the stakes are extremely high for a young Dominican player to get noticed by scouts. It’s the chance of a lifetime, not only for the individual, but everyone in his clan. This is not news. It’s been acknowledged for years. When it was determined some years ago that the Dominican Republic was the most fertile territory for Major League scouts, a new industry grew up on the other side, as well.

Ideally, American teams hoped to find players when they were very young, even 16. If they were signed at 18 fine. But if they were already 21 or Lord forbid older, then they might be bypassed. So young Dominican players whose age might put their signing in jeopardy initially were tutored by go-betweens who helped them obtain fake names or borrowed names with passport information that indicated they were younger. It was worth it for the player (who still had to make it to the top on his own merits) to get a chance.

Eventually, U.S. teams became conscious of the scams and in recent years procedures have tightened up, making it a bit more difficult to pull off the age/name scam. It’s safe to say that American government focus intensified more than ever in studying who gets into the country since 9/11. Even more recently the Dominican government has worked in cooperation with the American government to ensure that their exports–talented baseball players–were legit.

Carmona/Hernandez is a right-handed pitcher who as recently as 2010 was chosen as an American League All-Star. Carmona made his Major League debut in 2006 and it wasn’t a terribly good one. He finished 1-10. Yet a year later he emerged from obscurity with a 19-8 record. Ever since he’s been so-so. Even after a fast start in 2010, he finished 13-14.

Then, last January, he was nabbed after he walked out of the U.S. Consulate, where he had gone to obtain a visa in order to play the 2012 season.  Someone squealed on him. Claiming that she was not paid $26,000 for forging a passport for Carmona in that name a woman blew the whistle. It came out that Carmona never was Carmona and his real name was Roberto Hernandez.

Cleveland put their 6-foot-4, 230-pound hurler on the restricted list. Eventually, Carmona/Hernandez reappeared on the mound for the Indians before the season ended, going 0-3 with a 7.53 earned run average. Not only was Carmona not who he said he was, he was not as young as he said he was, either. No surprise there. That was probably the prime motivator for the name substitute in the first place. The guy is not 29. He is 32.

The player lied about his name for years, lied about his agefor years, couldn’t win a game in 2012, had an earned run average higher than Ohio’s unemployment rate, broke a couple of laws, and yet Tampa Bay still rewarded him with a multi-million-dollar contract. All Carmona/Hernandez had to do to get even a bigger payday, apparently, was be suspended 50 games for use of performance-enhancing drugs.

That’s how badly Tampa Bay needs pitching apparently.

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