SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Miami Marlins reliever Leo Nunez apologized Friday for using a fake name and age, saying he falsified his identify when he was young so he could play professional baseball.
"I apologize to my supporters, my fans," he said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press. "It was a mistake I made as a child and with God's help everything will turn out OK."
His real name is Juan Carlos Oviedo and he's 29, a year older than listed in the Marlins' media guide.
He spoke to the AP in the Dominican Republic one day after he was arrested and released on a charge of using a false identity. Officials said he would not be prosecuted because he was cooperating with a larger investigation of fake documents.
In September, the Marlins placed him on baseball's restricted list after Dominican authorities said he was implicated in the case.
The pitcher also apologized to the Marlins, the U.S. government and his native Dominican Republic, a country where many worship baseball but the sport has been tarnished in recent years by the use of false documents and banned substances.
Nunez, accompanied by attorney Nicolas Restituyo, did not say specifically when he adopted the fake name and age but said he did it so he could play as a pro.
"They told me that in order to sign I had to be one year younger to be a professional," he said. "But I'm a more experienced person now and I decided to appear before the authorities and say my name was Juan Carlos Oviedo," he said.
Authorities have arrested Hector Pena Diaz, who is accused of falsifying Nunez's documents. Pena could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
Nunez had 36 saves and a 4.06 ERA in 68 games this season with the Marlins.
He turned professional in 2000 after signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was traded to Kansas City in late 2004 and made his major league debut with the Royals the next season. The Marlins traded for him after the 2008 season.
He said he's hoping to make it back to the Marlins. He said his agent, Andy Mota, has spoken to the team and was told that he's eligible for arbitration and they want him to be Heath Bell's set-up man. But he still lacks a U.S. visa.
His lawyer, Nicolas Restituyo, said U.S. authorities had rejected his application for a new visa. He also needs to obtain a certification from the Major Leagues that he will not be suspended before a new request for a visa can be considered.
He realizes he still faces many obstacles before returning to the majors.
"It's going to be a little hard, but we're prepared for it," he said.