GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ronald Belisario, the troubled Los Angeles Dodgers reliever who missed all of last season because of visa problems in his native Venezuela, said Wednesday that it was a positive test for cocaine that kept him from obtaining the necessary paperwork that would have allowed him to enter the United States.
Belisario, who must serve a 25-game suspension at the start of this season for failing to comply with baseball’s drug policy, said he used the drug only once — he didn’t remember when or where — and that he hasn’t sought treatment for drug abuse.
“I don’t have a problem with any drugs,” he said. “It was a one-time thing.”
Belisario, whom the Dodgers signed as a minor league free agent three winters ago after he was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates, was late reporting to spring training because of visa problems each of his first two years with the club before not showing up at all last year. He remains on the Dodgers’ restricted list, meaning he isn’t taking up a spot on the 40-man roster.
Belisario also missed a month during the 2010 season, an absence he never publicly explained. Belisario was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Pasadena during the 2009 season, which was the reason he had difficulty obtaining a visa from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas the following spring.
Belisario declined on Wednesday to discuss the reason for his absence in 2010.
“That is in the past,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Belisario said he spent last season pitching in a semipro league in Venezuela that had games only on weekends. He then pitched for Margarita in the Venezuelan Winter League, posting a 5.16 ERA in 23 appearances and walking 15 batters in 22 2/3 innings.
Belisario insisted that his problems are behind him.
“I’m going to be here for a long time,” he said. “I am so excited to be here. I waited for this moment when I was home, and finally, I’m here.”
Belisario is eligible to pitch in all of the Dodgers’ spring-training games, but won’t be eligible to pitch for them during the regular season until at least May 4, when the Dodgers open a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
He will be eligible to pitch for one of the Dodgers’ minor league affiliates on a rehabilitation assignment for the final few days of his suspension.
Belisario was a key member of the Dodgers’ bullpen as a rookie in 2009, posting a 2.04 ERA in 69 appearances, before that figure ballooned to 5.04 in 59 games in 2010.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLA.com.
Follow Tony Jackson on Twitter: @dodgerscribe
Dodgers’ Belisario tested positive for cocaine
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