January 2011

The lastest on Simon

Check back for the latest updates, but as of Tuesday morning, here’s the latest on Alfredo Simon…

Orioles reliever Alfredo Simon, the primary suspect in a fatal New Year’s Eve shooting in the Dominican Republic, submitted himself to police for questioning on Monday morning and said the incident had been an accident.

“In truth that young man was my friend, like a brother,” Simon said told reporters of the victim, Michael Esteban Castillo, who was shot and killed in the northeast coastal town of Luperon.

“It wasn’t a thing like we began arguing and I started shooting. It was some accident; it happened by accident,” Simon said, speaking at the police station where he turned himself in. “That’s why I came here — to open my soul.”

In the meantime Simon is being held in Santiago where, according to multiple reports, he is awaiting the result of ballistics tests that are expected to determine if the fatal bullet came from his gun.  The results are expected within the next day or two.

Public prosecutor Victor Mueses told the AP in a phone interview Monday that witness accounts and evidence support an involuntary manslaughter charge for the 29-year-old Simon.

“The version that we have is that there was a dispute between two women and [Simon] tried to dissolve it, fired a shot that ended up wounding a young person in the arm and that same bullet lodged in the chest of the deceased,” Mueses said.

Simon’s lawyer, Carlos Olivares, who turned the gun over to local authorities on Monday, has a different story. Oliveras said he believes his client may not be to blame for Castillo’s death since Simon was firing random shots in the air and the victim was struck and killed in the chest. Oliveras also told the AP that the deceased, whose 17-year-old brother was also wounded in the incident, was Simon’s cousin.

“A group of 14, 15 people shot up in the air, including my client,” Oliveras told reporters. “So, [the police] planted the thesis that it could have been him.”

Oliveras said Simon fired the gun into the air and then left the park where the killing occurred oblivious to what had happened.

“He understood that nothing had happened at the moment. And 45 minutes later, when he was eating at some restaurant or discotheque, somebody tells him, ‘Hey, you’re the one who killed so-and-so,'” Olivares said, according to accounts by the Dominican media.

“The fact is that in this incident, many people fired guns, but the only person who’s been summoned for this is my client.”

The news, first reported by the AP, was confirmed to MLB.com by one of Simon’s agents, Phil Isaac, who was optimistic that Simon’s statement to the police would “be the end of the matter”.

Simon was joined Monday in the courthouse in Puerto Plata by close friend and former teammate Julio Lugo. Former Oriole Miguel Tejada has also reached out, according to Isaac, as well as a large number of Dominican-born baseball players, including those who have never played with Simon. Tejada is reportedly paying Simon’s legal bills.

“He is scared because he recognizes that he fired shots, although they went into the air,” said Lugo, who advised Simon to surrender after he fled the scene.

The Orioles have not commented publicly on the matter, but director of player development John Stockstill flew to the Dominican Republic on Monday with the intent of meeting with Simon, sorting through the facts and determining the proper course of action.

A native of Santiago, Simon was a key part of the O’s bullpen last season in the wake of injuries to Koji Uehara, Michael Gonzalez and Jim Johnson. Simon’s contract was purchased less than a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and he compiled 17 saves in 2010. He went 4-2 with a 4.93 ERA and was projected to be a part of the club’s bullpen this year.

Simon could face up to two years in prison if found guilty of
involuntary manslaughter. A murder conviction could have carried 30
years.

Update: Simon submits himself for questioning

Orioles reliever Alfredo Simon, the primary suspect in a fatal New Year’s Eve shooting in the Dominican Republic, submitted himself to police for questioning on Monday morning. The news, first reported by the Associated Press, was confirmed to MLB.com by one of Simon’s agents, Phil Isaac.

Isaac, of Para Sports Group, spoke with Simon on Sunday night and was waiting to hear back from his client following Monday’s meeting with the police.

“We are optimistic that hopefully this will be the end of the matter,” Isaac said in a phone interview early Monday afternoon.

Simon has been accused of allegedly shooting and killing 25-year-old Michel Castillo Almonte while attending a New Year’s Eve celebration in the coastal town of Luperon. Almonte’s 17-year-old brother, Starlin, was also wounded in the incident, according to the police statement.

The Orioles have not officially commented on the allegations; however, one of the club’s Dominican representatives, Felipe Alou Jr., told the AP Sunday that he had spoken with Simon and the right-hander denied involvement.

The Orioles pitcher was joined Monday in the courthouse in Puerto Plata by attorney Carlos Olivares and close friend and former teammate Julio Lugo. Former Oriole Miguel Tejada has also reached out, according to Isaac, as well as a large number of Dominican-born baseball players, including those who have never played with Simon.

The 29-year-old Simon was a key part of the Orioles bullpen in the wake of injuries to closer Koji Uehara, Michael Gonzalez and Jim Johnson. His contract was purchased less than a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery and Simon compiled 17 saves in Uehara’s absence. He went 4-2 with a 4.93 ERA in total last season and was projected to be a part of the club’s 2011 bullpen.

If convicted, he could face a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

Thoughts on Simon, Lee, LaRoche relievers

First, a happy and healthy New Year to all of you. Sorry for the slacking on blog entries here, but I’ve been trying to finish up my move to Baltimore. Usually, the holidays provide an ideal time for a beat reporter because it’s slower news-wise. But that hasn’t been the case for the O’s, as they reached a verbal agreement with Derrek Lee and have some serious issues coming out of the Dominican Republic.

*Yesterday saw some terribly tragic news with potential ramifications far beyond the baseball realm for Orioles reliever Alfredo Simon. Simon is the main suspect in a murder, although he has said he is innocent.

I’ve talked and exchanged texts with several of the Orioles players and team officials, and it’s certainly news that has shaken -and shocked – the organization. Simon was a pretty quiet guy in the clubhouse, but was well-liked and lauded for his efforts in the bullpen when Koji Uehara, Jim Johnson and Michael Gonzalez were hurt.  Although details are still emerging, I’d expect some sort of team statement today on the matter. News like this really puts baseball in perspective, doesn’t it?

*As for agreeing to terms with Lee, who will likely get his physical on Wednesday, I like the move. It’s a one-year deal with incentives that reportedly can get up to $10 million and the feeling is Lee and Mark Reynolds -who are both known to be tough, gritty players – will help add some pop to the lineup and some intensity to the O’s clubhouse. Both Reynolds and Lee played though injuries last season and -in addition to shoring up the corner infield defense – they are both outstanding guys to have around in terms of work ethic and, in manager Buck Showalter-speak, “want to”.

Signing Lee also makes Luke Scott the O’s regular DH, although a scenario where Lee and Scott switch once or twice a week wouldn’t surprise me.  

*I’ve gotten a lot of questions on what happened with Adam LaRoche negotiations, and the feeling in the front office was that, in the end, LaRoche didn’t want to come to Baltimore.

The O’s were very interested in LaRoche, but MASN.com’s report about a three-year deal being on the table was simply not true. Multiple sources -and several other media outlets in addition to MLB.com — confirmed there was never a three-year offer formally extended to LaRoche.

I had one source close to negotiations tell me that the Orioles were even hesitant to give LaRoche a two-year deal over a one-year offer to Lee. That should make those of you who were outraged at the idea of locking up LaRoche long term feel much, much better.

This is all (finally) over and –pending a physical — the Orioles have a legitimate first baseman in three-time Gold Glover winner Lee.

*Now what? The Orioles would still like another bat off the bench, a veteran starter and another catcher before heading to Spring Training, which is literally around the corner.

But the bullpen–especially with Simon in limbo–remains a top priority. The O’s have an offer out to right-hander Kevin Gregg and they would like to add a right-hander and a lefty to the current ‘pen. Losing Simon would give them another right-handed hole to fill. It could also make Grant Balfour a more enticing choice. The Orioles are interested, but as of Monday had not put a formal offer out to Balfour, who is a Type-A free agent and would cost the O’s their second-round Draft pick.

*Finally, I’m working on an Orioles inbox for Tuesday, so send any and all Orioles questions to brittany.ghiroli@mlb.com and include your name and hometown. Or send me a question on Twitter.  Thanks!

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