Colon, Another Pitcher Gain Year After Government Check

CLEVELAND (AP) - Indians starter Bartolo Colon turned a year older over the weekend and didn't even get a party.

Colon (pictured, right) went from 26 to 27 after government officials found a discrepancy between his passport and birth certificate when he left his native Dominican Republic over the weekend. He will turn 28 on May 24.

"They said I was a year older," Colon said. "It's no big deal. I don't care."

Fellow Dominican player Martin Vargas, scheduled to pitch in the bullpen at Triple-A Buffalo, also was found to be a year older. He's 25 instead of 24.

"A lot of times it's not just players lying and saying they're younger than they really are; it's poor record-keeping," Indians general manger Mark Shapiro said.

Colon and Vargas are among several players from the Dominican Republic who have had their ages change because of closer scrutiny when they tried to report to spring training.

More attention has been paid to noncitizens entering the United States following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"It's not just us," Shapiro said. "It's happening all over baseball."

Former Indian Julian Tavarez still hasn't been allowed to leave the Dominican Republic to join the Chicago Cubs in Mesa, Ariz. Tavarez, according to reports, has a passport but no birth certificate.

Anaheim's Ramon Ortiz, thought to be one of the most promising young pitchers in the American League, was found to be 29 instead of 26 earlier this month. Atlanta's Rafael Furcal, the National League Rookie of the Year in 2000, was found to be 23 instead of 21.

"In my heart and mind, I know everything is going to be OK," Vargas said. "What, are they going to come and kill me because I'm one year older?"

Vargas said many players are still in the Dominican Republic and can't report to spring training because of phony birth certificates.

"I feel bad for them," he said. "They've got families and they need jobs."

Left-hander Ricardo Rincon, who missed the first two days of workouts, reported to Chain of Lakes Park yesterday. Rincon said he was delayed for three or four days trying to get through customs in his native Mexico.

"They said the picture on my passport didn't match the picture on my visa," Rincon said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)