Sending out the search party for Ronald Belisario
Won’t you come home, Ronald Belisario, won’t you come home?
To your baseball home, that is. To the Dodgers, currently working daily in the Arizona sun to prepare for the coming season.
All of them, that is, but you. It’s Day 12 without Visa Man. Twelve days without a true explanation.
Don’t think the Dodgers aren’t miffed, either. The Dodgers have already graduated from frustration to irritation.
"I think it’s a problem now," Manager Joe Torre said Monday. "The pitchers need all this time. Of course, he did play winter ball. But I can’t really tell you [his condition] until I see him."
That would require he get his 237-pound derriere out of his native Venezuela and to Phoenix. Which would require a visa.
Now the Feb. 20 reporting date for pitchers and catchers was hardly a moving target. It didn’t exactly sneak up on anyone. Visa requirements were known.
Yet as the Dodgers prepare to play their first spring game Friday, the big right-hander remains MIA. Can’t get a visa. A lot like last spring.
Of course, that worked out all right for both him and the Dodgers. After spending eight years drifting around the minor leagues, he made the Dodgers out of camp despite having pitched in only four spring games because of visa problems.
And then he became an unexpected rookie sensation. Belisario ended up pitching in 69 games and leaving with a 2.04 earned-run average. He proved to be an invaluable setup man.
Let’s face it, the man can throw gas. The Dodgers need him. And understandably want him in camp.
Staying away again is not going to build any extra cred with teammates, many of whom would prefer spring training were more a three-week affair.
Belisario’s agent, Paul Kinzer, hardly shed any light on the situation in talking with The Times’ Dylan Hernandez.
Kinser said he didn’t know whether Belisario was late applying for the visa or missed an appointment, delaying the process.
He did acknowledge the visa process was taking longer for Belisario because of drunk-driving charges the reliever faces, but said he had no concern the visa would not be granted.
"As far as I know, it's a matter of when," Kinzer told Hernandez.
When, like before the season opener? Or when, like any day now?
No one really seems to know. A regular baseball mystery.
And if it’s hard to fathom that Belisario is completely guiltless in this affair, it’s harder to fathom the Dodgers being OK with the situation. Two years in a row looks beyond suspicious.
Belisario owes it to the organization and his teammates to get to camp.
-- Steve Dilbeck in Phoenix
Photo: Ronald Belisario delivers during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies on June 6. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez / US Presswire