Milwaukee Brewers reliever and Venezuelan murder suspect Julio Machado, may be freed from prison to play during the 1992 season, according to Venezuelan officials.
A Venezuelan superior court judge Tuesday reduced the charges against Machado from intentional murder to unintentional murder, after a request by his lawyers.
The reduction of charges opens the door for Machado's attorneys to request that the pitcher be given "provisional freedom." That would enable him to leave the country without bail to play for the Brewers.
Press reports in Venezuela indicated that Machado, 23, would be be granted freedom within the next few days, which would allow him to report to the Brewers' spring training camp in Chandler, Ariz.
Machado was charged last month in the late-night shooting death of a man killed following an accident between Machado's car and a car in which the victim was a passenger.
* YANKEES: That annual rite of spring, the Pascual Perez Watch, is over.
The flamboyant right-hander be-bopped into camp yesterday sporting no fewer than six gold medallions around his neck and looking as if he hadn't a trouble in the world.
Although five days had passed since the first official reporting day for pitchers and catchers, the Dominican pitcher seemed oblivious.
"I'm on time," he said. "I should be here the 26th . . . with everybody."
While New York Yankees manager Buck Showalter would not quite agree with Perez's personal timetable, he didn't appear too upset.
All major-league veterans have until March 4 to report to their camps before they can be fined.
Perez said that this year he had his visa in order and was ready to go. He also claims that he has been in Florida since Monday, but says he has been busy "organizing things in my house, you know?"
Perez also has been busy finalizing the purchase of a chauffeured car that will transport him to both spring training and regular-season games. The license plate on the limo will read: ON TIME.
* RED SOX: First baseman Carlos Quintana, who broke his left arm in a car accident in Venezuela, is expected to be out of the lineup at least until the All-Star break in mid-July, the team physician said.
Quintana underwent surgery on the arm Monday after breaking it in an accident that occurred as he was driving two of his brothers, who had been shot at a party, to the hospital. He planned to leave the hospital today.
* BREWERS: Shortstop Bill Spiers, who reported to camp a day early, will be restricted in workouts for a couple of weeks in the wake of off-season back surgery.
Spiers, who batted .283 in 133 games last season, had a herniated disk removed from his lower back in November. The Brewers still expect Spiers to be in the starting lineup on Opening Day, but will bring him along slowly.
* REDS: Pitcher Norm Charlton says he will not have to serve two days remaining on a suspension from last season. But the National League isn't so sure.
Charlton was suspended in September for seven days for having admitted he intentionally hit Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia with a pitched ball. Charlton said he did it because he thought Scioscia was trying to steal the Reds' signs.
Charlton served five days of his suspension before the 1991 season ran out. He said he was informed that he would not have to miss the first two days of the 1992 season.
But National League spokeswoman Katy Feeney said Charlton's case is still under review.
* BRAVES: Manager Bobby Cox said he plans to have Otis Nixon and Ron Gant swap positions. Nixon will move from left to center field and Gant from center to left.
Nixon will miss the first 18 games of the regular season because of his Sept. 16 drug suspension. Cox said Deion Sanders also would work out in center.
* EXPOS: Tim Wallach wants no part of a move from third to first base, but manager Tom Runnells seems to be leaning heavily toward Wallach to replace Andres Galarraga, who was traded in the off-season to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Runnells said he spoke to Wallach this week about the move. The 10-year third baseman wanted the manager to exhaust all other options before considering the switch.
"But I know what will happen after we've tried our options," said Runnells. "We'll ask Tim to take over."
"I never agreed to it," countered Wallach.