Orioles reliever Alfredo Simon is main suspect in fatal shooting

Police say 29-year-old pitcher shot and killed 25-year-old at New Year's Eve celebration in Dominican Republic

January 02, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

Alfredo Simon, a 29-year-old pitcher who overcame a serious arm injury to become a key component of the Orioles' bullpen last season, is wanted in connection with a shooting in the Dominican Republic.

The pitcher is suspected of killing 25-year-old Michel Castillo Almonte and wounding his 17-year-old brother during a celebration in the northeast coastal town of Luperon, police said in a statement. No motive was disclosed. Simon is from the Dominican Republic, and police said he fled after the violence.

The Orioles have not commented yet on the situation. Simon's representatives say they have been in contact with their client but are not prepared to comment at this time.

Simon was signed by the Orioles out of the Mexican League in 2008 and pitched in four big league games, including one start, that season. He began 2009 in the Orioles' rotation, but made just two starts before injuring his right elbow.

    He had ligament replacement (Tommy John) surgery in May 2009, a procedure that usually takes at least one year of rehabilitation. But Simon was back at spring training the next February, receiving rave reviews from club officials for his work ethic and commitment.

        He returned to the big leagues by the end of April -- and made an immediate impact.

     A starter most of his career, he was switched to relief just prior to his 2010 promotion, and saved his first big league game in his first appearance on April 27. He converted 17 of 21 save opportunities on the season, including 13 of 15 before the All-Star break, but eventually lost the closer role to Koji Uehara.

        Simon ended the season 4-2 with a 4.93 ERA and 17 saves in 49 games. His ERA in the second half was 6.66 in 24 games compared to 3.24 in 25 games in the first half.

         A 6-fooot-6, 230-pound right-hander whose fastball reaches into the high 90s, his physical stature belies a shy, reserved nature in the clubhouse. However, Simon was embroiled in an on-field controversy on September 26 in Toronto when he hit Blue Jays' slugger Jose Bautista with a pitch after both sides had been warned due to previous plunkings in the game.

      Simon entered in the fifth and threw just six pitches, with the fifth nearly missing Bautista before the sixth hit the American League home run champ's left arm. Simon was immediately ejected and then fined and suspended two games for the incident, which he claimed was accidental. Simon also said afterward that he considered Bautista a friend.

      The Blue Jays, however, argued that Simon's appearance so early in the game -- he hadn't pitched before the seventh all season -- Bautista's success versus the Orioles in 2010 and two consecutive wild throws from Simon were proof that the hit-by-pitch was intentional. A few Blue Jays, including pitcher Shaun Marcum, who was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers this offseason, had vowed to get even with the Orioles in 2011 since that was the teams' last meeting of 2010.

        Simon was nearly traded by the Orioles in December, but a deal that would have sent him and outfielder Nolan Reimold to the Tampa Bay Rays for shortstop Jason Bartlett was pulled off the table by the Orioles.   

Simon could face up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.

The Associated Press contributed to this article

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