Belisario talks to media for first time

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In his first interview since arriving five weeks late to spring training because of visa problems in his native Venezuela, Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario took little responsibility for his extended absence and denied he missed appointments at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas.

"I never missed an appointment,'' he said. "They gave me appointments to go to after they said they were denying my visa. They told me to take exams and things, and I kept going twice a week. They just said they were denying my visa because of the DUI.''

Belisario was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence last summer in Pasadena, and when he went home to Venezuela for the winter the matter still was unresolved. The charge recently was plea-bargained down to reckless driving, a non-alcohol related charge, and Belisario was fined $1,000. Belisario said he left the matter to his attorney and he was unaware of its resolution.

Belisario also claimed ignorance when asked about the fact the Dodgers had placed him on the restricted list Friday, meaning the club could avoid paying him for up to 30 days from the time of that move -- or roughly three weeks, given that major league players aren't paid until Opening Day.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who announced the move Saturday, had a chance meeting with Belisario in a Camelback Ranch parking lot when the pitcher finally arrived later that day, but the two weren't scheduled for a formal discussion until Sunday.

"They didn't tell me anything about it,'' Belisario said. "I have to talk to them first. I read some things in the news, and my agent told me they felt upset because I didn't get here. I saw Ned, and he told me we would talk today.''

Belisario has no chance of being on the Opening Day roster because he has missed so much of spring training, but said he would only need a week to be ready for the season. He said he had been throwing regularly off a mound in Venezuela while working out with friends -- although he said he hadn't pitched to hitters for about a month.

"I have been practicing over there, and I feel pretty good,'' he said. "I was going crazy over there because they weren't giving me a visa. But I just kept practicing to get ready.''

Belisario also said his early exit from his winter ball team in Venezuela, La Guaira -- a Venezuelan media report said he left the team without explanation -- was at the request of the Dodgers.

"I stopped pitching after the fourth game of the playoffs,'' he said. "I talked to the team, and the Dodgers told me [to do that].''

Colletti confirmed that but said the Dodgers made the request only after Belisario failed to appear for a handful of games without explanation. That resulted in his regular pitching schedule, which was prescribed by the Dodgers, being thrown off track.

"He was missing a game here and a game there, sporadically,'' Colletti said. "Because of his schedule, we decided it was better for him just to shut it down.''

Dodgers manager Joe Torre said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt will put Belisario on the same program pitchers routinely are on when they initially report to camp in February. That means throwing off a mound every other day for a few days before facing hitters.

When the Dodgers break camp later this week, Belisario will stay behind in extended spring training, at least while he is on the restricted list. The Dodgers must either activate him or waive him by April 25.

Belisario also was late to spring training because of visa issues last year. He said this time, he started the process on Dec. 23 and the official reason he was given for the initial denial of the visa was the unresolved DUI charge. He then said that in order to obtain a visa with that charge still pending, he had to undergo several tests, including psychological tests and drug tests, that he hadn't been subjected to in previous years.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.