White Sox’s Abreu: I ate fake passport on way to U.S.
2014 Rookie of Year testifies in Cuban smuggling case.
Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu told a Miami federal jury Wednesday that he ate a chunk of a fake passport while flying to the U.S. to cover up his illegal travel as part of a Cuban ballplayer smuggling operation.
Abreu testified he ordered a beer on an Air France flight from Haiti to Miami and slowly consumed the page containing a false name and his photo. Abreu said he traveled illegally because he was worried he would miss an October 2013 deadline and lose the $68 million contract he later signed with Chicago.
“We had to be in Chicago to sign the contract,” Abreu told jurors.
The testimony came in the trial of sports agent Bartolo Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada, who are accused of alien smuggling and conspiracy. They allegedly operated a ring that took Cuban players from the communist-governed island to countries where they could sign lucrative MLB contracts once they established residency.
Abreu, who was AL Rookie of the Year in 2014, testified under a grant of limited immunity.
Abreu told jurors he got the fake passport in Haiti, where he had been taken with his family from Cuba by speedboat in August 2013. His main contact and fixer there was Amin Latouff, he said, a man who was indicted with Hernandez and Estrada but who has not been arrested.
It was Latouff, Abreu testified, who got him the passport and booked the flight, telling the ballplayer to destroy the document on the plane. But instead of tearing it up and tossing it in the garbage, Abreu said he ordered a Heineken and chewed it up in his seat.
Right-hander Luke Weaver, who made eight starts last season, left Wednesday’s 6-1 win over the Mets with back spasms in the eighth inning after retiring the first two batters and falling behind 3-1 in the count to his third hitter.
With Matt Carpenter now at first base, Jhonny Peralta and Jedd Gyorko are competing for the third-base job in Cardinals camp. A three-time All-Start shortstop, Peralta had not played third base regularly since 2010 until making the switch
last year. Gyorko, a utility infielder who led the Cardinals with 30 homers last year, has made just 38 starts at third in four big league seasons. “It’s just an open competition,” GM John Mozeliak said. “The chess pieces move. Ultimately we’ve got to decide what we think our best club looks like.”
Catcher Christian Bethancourt pitched a perfect eighth inning in Wednesday’s 5-0 win over the Athletics, part of an experiment at giving him double duty this year. He threw 11 pitches, seven for strikes.
AL MVP Mike Trout got two hits and was hit by a pitch from Texas’ A.J. Griffin in the Angels’ 3-2 win Wednesday. Trout has reached base in all five of his plate appearances this spring. Also, the Angels are 5-0 this spring, and are unbeaten in their last 16 exhibition games (14-0-2) dating to last year. “And we lost 88 in between,” manager Mike Scioscia joked.
Former catcher David Ross, who retired last fall after helping Chicago win the World Series, will be the first major leaguer to appear on “Dancing with the Stars.” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said this will be “the first time I’ll ever watch that show.”
Padres: Angels: Cubs:
Victor Hedman scored his second goal of the game 46 seconds into overtime, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves. Nikita Kucherov got his second assist on the winning goal.
Patrick Kane had his second hat trick in three games, and Scott Darling made 36 saves for Chicago.
Detroit acquired a third-round pick and seldom-used defenseman Dylan McIlrath from Florida for forward Thomas Vanek . ... Los Angeles picked up forward Jarome Iginla, 39, from Colorado as he seeks a Stanley Cup in what could be his final season . ... Pittsburgh shored up its back end when it acquired defenseman Mark Streit from Tampa Bay.
Defenseman Colin Miller will not be suspended for his hit that forced forward Alex Burmistrov to leave the ice Tuesday night on a stretcher.
The Phillies’ Aaron Altherr slides safely into third base with a three-run triple in the fourth inning of Wednesday’s 5-5 tie with the Rays.