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Atilano DFA’d, 3 others delayed

Feb 16, 2011, 1:50 PM EDT

VIERA, Fla. — The Nationals announced this morning they designated right-hander Luis Atilano for assignment, the long-awaited move that reduces their roster to the maximum 40 one day before pitchers and catchers hold their first formal workout.

Atilano was a surprise contributor to the Nationals’ rotation early last season, summoned from the minors after a spate of injuries. He went 5-1 over his first eight career starts, then lost six of his next seven decisions to wind up 6-7 with a 5.15 ERA.

The Puerto Rico native went on the disabled list in July with bone chips in his throwing elbow and missed the rest of the season after having surgery to remove them.

Meanwhile, three pitchers and catchers have yet to report to spring training due to visa issues: Dominican right-hander Elvin Ramirez (a Rule 5 draftee) and Venezuelan right-hander Henry Rodriguez (acquired from the A’s in the Josh Willingham trade) and catcher Carlos Maldonado (invited to camp as a non-roster player).

  1. N. Cognito - Feb 16, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Finally. Our Nationals 40-man roster angst is over.

  2. NatsJack in Florida - Feb 16, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    And another JayB crisis averted…. along with the "Zim's going to bail because we dumped Dunn and The Hammer"….Just kidding… even I was starting to run out of patience on this one.

  3. N. Cognito - Feb 16, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    I suspect some here were actually losing sleep over the status of the 40-man roster.

  4. NatsJack in Florida - Feb 16, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    I actuually become more perplexed by the "visa" issues that always crop up. I would expect that these guys have agents that can take care of these things. I understand that if they are on a work visa, changing employers may create some roadblocks but it's not like this doesn't happen all the time. These guys should be pros at this by now.

  5. bdrube - Feb 16, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    Yet another in the long tradition of Levale Speigner, Shairon Martis, Garrett Mock, Matt Chico, Beltran Perez, Mike O'Connor and J.D. Martin–crappy young pitchers who would have been hard pressed to ever break into the starting rotation with any other organization.No offense, Luis, but I really hope out rotation finally becomes deep enough that we never see you back again starting in Washington.

  6. Anonymous - Feb 16, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    Some things never change. I remember as a kid in the 60's that every Spring, three or four of the Latino players arrived late because of "visa problems." "Camilo Pasqual wasn't in Pompano Beach this morning with the rest of the Senators' pitchers due to visa problems." Just makes you wonder what is it that happens that causes these last-minute hangups. Did the players start the process too late or was it a snag on the other end?Farid

  7. Mark'd - Feb 16, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    bdrube, the drama isn't over with Mock, Martis, Martin, and Matt as the 4Ms are all back.

  8. Sunderland - Feb 16, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    Mark:I'm curious about something. We often see players report to camp early, but I've noticed that we are not seeing non-roster invitees showing up early.Am I off base in that observation?Are NRI's not really welcome to show up early?Because it would seem if anyone would want to show up early, it's the guys fighting for a roster spot.

  9. Todd Boss - Feb 16, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    Agree with NatsJack; it also amazes me that every year guys have Visa issues getting back into the states. Are they lazy and just didn't get the paperwork started on time? Do they have incompetent agents? Did they lose the visa paperwork and had to reapply? I'd love to hear why this happens over and over.

  10. Anonymous - Feb 16, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    I think visa issues can be unpredictable. I have a professor at UMD who missed the first three weeks of class due to a visa issue. And she's someone who knows what she's doing. Sometimes the State Department does things that surprise (and inconvenience the hell out of) you.

  11. Feel Wood - Feb 16, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    "Agree with NatsJack; it also amazes me that every year guys have Visa issues getting back into the states. Are they lazy and just didn't get the paperwork started on time? Do they have incompetent agents? Did they lose the visa paperwork and had to reapply? I'd love to hear why this happens over and over."Since 9/11, the process for obtaining a work visa has gotten even more convoluted and complicated than it ever was before. Hoops must be jumped through by the employee (the player) and the employer (the team) with neither being given strong guidance by the government as to what the process actually is. What worked last year may not work this year – indeed it probably won't work. If you expect an agent to keep on top of this, you're naive. Agents have dozens of clients, and other than for the biggest stars they are not going to be able to put in the time and effort required to take care of this. Also, there are things the agent won't be able to do for the player – like appear in person at the US Embassy in his home country to fill out paperwork, etc, by whatever deadline the US govt has put in place. Also, the player, team and agent may think they have everything in place, only to find out when the player attempts to cross the border that they have missed something which they probably wouldn't even have known about otherwise. With a situation like this, visa snafus are inevitable. There's no way around it.

  12. N. Cognito - Feb 16, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    The visa "problem" has been going on for decades. Although there can be unexpected delays, I think it's a semi-legit way to show up late to camp.

  13. JD - Feb 16, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    N.Cognito, I think you nailed it but you would think that the 2 rookies would want to arrive on time to get a leg up in the competition for a roster spot. I don't know but if I was fighting for a spot on the major league team I would make sure I,m in the states at least a week ahead of schedule and I would do whatever it takes to get the paperwork done in time. Since they all eventually make it over it makes you think that they are either not starting the process in time or they are being insincere; either way it sounds pretty stupid to me.

  14. Theophilus - Feb 16, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    Wonder if Smiley's got his visa issues worked out.Just in case. Seriously, the Nats have a minor league system full of Dominicans and Venezuelans. While, logically, it seems like it's the player's responsibility, I have dealt w/ U.S. consular officials (pre-9/11) from the South American side and their bureaucratic obduracy can reach astonishing densities. Often a push from the State Department is required to make the process "work." You would think a major league organization — and they are all heavily dependent on Latin American players — would have at least one employee whose sole responsibility was to make sure every player under contract can make it to training camp on time.

  15. Bratislava, Slovakia - Feb 16, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    Back in the last century, I was a vice consul (junior consular officer) at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo. One of us — not me, unfortunately — was the designated "baseball officer," who handled the visa applications for all the players (major and minor leagues). She did a terrific job, trying to be as unbureaucratic and accommodating as possible, but she also had to work within the law and regulations. And many, many times the applications that appeared on her desk were a mess, even when submitted by a major leaguer. Most of the time, when we read about "visa problems" back then (the mid-1980s) it really was the fault of the players (or the team) who were submitting applications late and/or with incomplete paperwork. That's not to say the U.S. government bureaucracy (State plus Justice/INS) couldn't screw things up — we certainly could — but while I was there the fault normally lay with the players/agents/team (whoever was putting together the application).Since that era, however, things have gotten much more problematic, based largely on the more-stringent post-2001 security requirements, but also on the demonstrated need to address fraud committed by some of the applicants (e.g., our friend Smiley). Applications much pass through a more complicated process and are subject to greater review in Washington (by the old INS's successor agencies) and consular officers have much less leeway to apply the "rule of reason" when considering an application that isn't quite perfect. My suspicion is that many of the "visa problems" we read about today are more the fault of the ponderous USG system than the player/agent/team. But that's a guess, as I haven't worked those issues for years.BTW, I can recall a wonderful Consular Officers vs. Marine Security Guard softball game in Santo Domingo in the 1980s when we made Pedro Guerrero, Mario Soto, and Rafael Landestoy "honorary vice consuls" for a day and they played on our team. It was the only time we beat the Marines during my tenure in the DR.

  16. Feel Wood - Feb 16, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    I used to deal with bringing performing artists into the US to perform at a local festival, give teaching workshops, etc. This was pre-9/11 and as Theophilus says the visa process was a hassle. You could come close to managing it from afar, though, and get your guys into the country. But post-9/11 the US added requirements like having the person requesting the visa appear in person at the US embassy in their country of origin – which might entail a substantial journey from wherever they were living at the time of applying. (For instance, a Venezuelan who happened to be playing winter ball in the Dominican would have to go to the US Embassy in Venezuela, not the Dominican.) And even on top of that, visas that would have been automatically approved pre-9/11 started to get rejected for what seemed like arbitrary and capricious reasons. I saw cases of performers we had sponsored before with no problem having to cancel their entire US tours because of visa issues – even though they had jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops. Trust me, the visa process for getting ballplayers into the US is not something that any team could honcho from afar as Theophilus suggests. Post 9/11, it's purely a crisis management operation fot team officials.

  17. SCNatsFan - Feb 16, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    Having gone to school out of the US, I can tell you not only are delays for minor paperwork errors a nightmare but once you try to solve the problem its frustrating as sometimes you don't get an answer to how long things can take to resolve the problem. As for Atilano, I'm sure as he has options someone will take a flier on him. Don't think he'll be missed here much, he just seemed to lose confidence in his ability to throw strikes.

  18. Sec 3, My Sofa - Feb 16, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Positively Half St. - Feb 16, 2011 at 5:15 PM

    I hope that flier comes in a quick trade. Let's get as many possibilities for center field as possible.

  20. Theophilus - Feb 16, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    I think Atilano could easily end up as a 4th or 5th starter for a ML team. People forget he was once the #2 pitching prospect for the Braves before TJ surgery. And there've been good pitchers who haven't done as well in their first ML experience as he did last year. I think his most serious problem may have been Brittle-Nats-Starter Syndrome (BNSS). If he gets healthy, and stays that way, he could be around for a while. I fully agree the Nats have at least nine starters in the upper tier of the organization who, right now, are more serviceable.

  21. The Great Unwashed - Feb 16, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    How time flies. Last year Atilano was crowned with the silver Elvis wig for the early wins but then soon faded and got injured. As much as I've been critical of the starting rotation, it's a sign of progress when the front office is able to trim some of the fat so to speak. There's more work to be done, of course, but I view this as a good sign.One question though: I assume Atilano was DFA'd because he was out of options. If he clears waivers and the Nats resign him, does he have to be DFA'd again if he's called up and then they want to send him back down? Does anybody know the answer to that?

  22. Anonymous - Feb 16, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    If Atilano is out of options, he's out of options. So if he ever ends up on a major league roster again, the only way he gets off is by DFA.But just because he got DFA today doesn't necessarily mean he's out of options. He got DFA because that was the only way to get him off the 40-man roster to make room for LaRoche. If a player gets optioned, he stays on the 40-man roster.

  23. Sec 3, My Sofa - Feb 16, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    "Designated For Assignment" is a temporary thing. They have (ten?) days to release him or ask waivers or trade him.Which doesn't answer Great's question. I seem to recall they can't ask waivers on the same guy twice in a season, so I think they would have to keep him if they send him down and then bring him up again this season.

  24. Anonymous - Feb 16, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    They can put a guy on waivers as many times as they want to during a season. But they can only revoke waivers on him once. After that, if he's claimed he's gone.

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