Lima, 37, found in full cardiac arrest

NEW YORK -- Authorities say paramedics found former major league pitcher Jose Lima, 37, in full cardiac arrest at his home in Pasadena Calif., early Sunday, and he was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A statement from the Pasadena Police Department says a specific cause of death is unknown, and Los Angeles County coroner's officials will perform an autopsy.

Police detectives also responded to the scene because of the undetermined cause of death and will work with the coroner's office, the statement said.

Lima's wife Dorca Astacio said the cause of death was ruled a heart attack.

"Jose was complaining while sleeping and I just thought he was having a nightmare," Astacio told ESPNdeportes.com's Enrique Rojas. "I called the paramedics, but they couldn't help him."

Lima, who often referred to his outings as "Lima Time," was 89-102 in 13 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets.

He was selected to the All-Star Game with Houston in 1999, when he won a career-high 21 games.

Lima didn't return to the major leagues after being released by the Mets in 2006, when he went 0-4 in four games pitched.

Last winter, Lima played for the Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Republic and had announced plans to do the same in the upcoming season.

"This is a shock for us because Lima was a young man who seemed healthy and nobody imagined this," said Tomas Jimenez, manager of the Aguilas Cibaenas.

Lima is survived by his wife and five children.

The Los Angeles Police Department's forensic unit told Lima's family that his body would be released Wednesday. Lima's family confirmed to ESPNdeportes.com that he would be buried in the Dominican Republic.

Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, a native of Santiago, the same Dominican region in which Lima was born, said he thought of Lima like an older brother.

"I could always reach out to him when I needed guidance and advice," Reyes said in a phone interview. "His passing truly hurts."

Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith called Lima "certainly one of the most entertaining personalities to ever don an Astros uniform."

"For two years, he was one of the most successful pitchers in franchise history, winning 37 games and pitching a total of 479 innings in those two seasons," Smith said in a statement on the team's website. "He pitched and lived life with great flair and enthusiasm."

Astros owner Drayton McLane reflected on Lima's off-the-field attributes.

"He could dance, he could sing, but his best gift of all was that he was an extremely happy person," McLane said in a statement. "He just lit up our clubhouse with his personality, which was his greatest asset. Jose was not shortchanged in life in any way. He lived life to the fullest every day."

"Everyone will remember Jose for his antics on the mound," said former Astro Craig Biggio, a teammate of Lima's, according to the team's website. "But he was a tremendous teammate and a great competitor. It's a big loss for the Astros baseball family."

Those sentiments were seconded by Tony Pena, who coached Lima with Kansas City and Aguilas Cibaenas.

"A lot of folks thought he was crazy, but Lima was an innate competitor," Pena said. "When Lima was on the mound, he would refuse to give the ball away until the game was over. I have lost a son."

Royals designated hitter Jose Guillen, who played with Lima for the Escogido Lions of the Dominican winter league, said he heard of Lima's death before Sunday's game in Kansas City against Colorado.

"A writer told me the news while I was at batting practice and I just dropped the bat. I froze," Guillen said.

Guillen added that he'll wear the initials JL on his helmet as a sign of respect for his deceased friend.

"This is painful. Jose Lima has died," said Red Sox DH David Ortiz, who also played with Lima in the Dominican league.

"It's hard to understand that something like this has happened to a man his age," the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez said Sunday.

Dodger owner Frank McCourt released a statement in which he fondly recalled Lima's singing of the national anthem before a home game in 2004, during his one season with the Dodgers.

"We are shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic loss of Jose Lima," McCourt said in the release. "Though he was taken from us way too soon, he truly lived his life to the fullest and his personality was simply unforgettable. He had the ability to light up a room and that's exactly what he did every time I saw him."

In the 2004 National League Division Series, Lima pitched a five-hit shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals in front of a sell-out crowd at Dodger Stadium. It was the Dodgers first postseason win since Game 5 of the 1988 World Series.

According to McCourt, Lima had rejoined the Dodgers organization within the past month as a member of their alumni association, attending a game Friday night amid plans to open a youth baseball academy this summer in Los Angeles "to help teach the game he loved to youngsters."

"He was committed to making appearances in the community on behalf of the team, including an upcoming musical performance at a Viva Los Dodgers event this summer," McCourt said.

Lima last donned a major league jersey with the Mets, and former first baseman Keith Hernandez said it was an honor to know Lima wore his No. 17.

"Lima was one of the most charismatic figures in baseball," Hernandez said. "It is a tragedy that he passed away so early in life."

Information from ESPNdeportes.com's Enrique Rojas and The Associated Press was used in this report.