By Ed Price
May 17, 2004
PHOENIX–One of the Diamondbacks’ top pitching prospects has been using a false identity, according to a person familiar with the player’s background and records obtained by the Associated Press.
Major League Baseball is investigating whether the pitcher known as Adriano Rosario is actually Ramon Antonio Pena Paulino, or Tony Pena, and is more than three years older than his listed age.
“We are aware that there are reports to that effect, and we are looking into those reports and have communicated with the Diamondbacks about that,” Sandy Alderson, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations, told the AP.
In addition, the source familiar with the player told the East Valley Tribune that Rafael Mena, who until this year was listed as one of Arizona’s scouts in the Dominican Republic, assisted Pena in disguising his identity in exchange for a share of the player’s signing bonus. The source said he did not know if any other team employees knew of the false identity.
The pitcher turned 19 on Sunday–according to his previous birthdate. But the AP reported that birth records show he was born Jan. 9, 1982, making him 22. Rosario, the AP said, is actually Pena’s nephew and has the 1985 birthdate.
The Tribune’s source said he discovered the player he thought was Rosario was actually named Tony Pena. General manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said Sunday the team would have no comment beyond a statement issued last Thursday, which read, “Rosario has returned to his native Dominican Republic to address his immigration status.”
Agent Scott Boras did not return phone calls from the Tribune and the AP. Pena did not return a message from the AP.
The pitcher had been with Double-A El Paso but has been reassigned to the roster of the organization’s Rookie-level Dominican Summer League entry. He is expected to work out at the team’s Dominican facility until the DSL season opens in June.
Before the season Baseball America ranked Rosario as the team’s second-best pitching prospect. His fastball touches 98 mph, and he was a Midwest League all-star last season at Class A South Bend.
Even if the player is 22, he would still be considered a prospect because of his ability. What actions MLB might take are unclear, especially because making the player a free agent would reward him, as teams would likely offer him large bonuses.
Dominican players have fudged their ages for years to make themselves more attractive to scouts. Since 9/11, players who are not U.S. citizens have been under stricter guidelines to produce documents that prove their ages in order to get visas, which has exposed a large number of assumed names or false birthdates.
Another of Arizona’s top pitching prospects, Greg Aquino, once called himself Greg Valera and turned out to be a year older than originally listed. Rosario/Pena’s signing came under scrutiny two weeks ago after an ESPN expose. Ivan Noboa–a buscone, or independent developer of talent–took $100,000 from Arizona as part of a June 2002 deal but did not tell the pitcher of that payment when he also took another $100,000 from his $400,000 signing bonus. Also, the Dodgers made a higher offer than Arizona that may not have been communicated to the player.
Ivan Noboa is the brother of Junior Noboa, Arizona’s director of Latin American operations. The Diamondbacks deny any wrongdoing by Junior Noboa, or that he had conspired in his brother’s actions.
Ed Price covers the Diamondbacks for the East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.).