Alfredo Simon, a 29-year-old pitcher who became a key component of the Orioles' bullpen last season, is suspected of fatally shooting a man and wounding another during a New Year's Eve celebration in the Dominican Republic, police there said Sunday.
Police in the northern coastal province of Puerto Plata obtained an arrest warrant for Simon and said they wanted to question him about the incident, which they said occurred as revelers gathered in a park in the resort town of Luperon. Police suggested the shooting might have been accidental, but were waiting to hear Simon's version of what occurred.
"They're actively looking for him" as the suspected shooter in the killing, Inspector Pablo Cuevas, of the municipal police force in Luperon, said in Spanish. "He left the park immediately after the shooting."
One of Simon's agents, Phil Isaac, said his client was not in hiding, as some published reports had suggested, and that he intended to meet with law enforcement authorities to cooperate with the investigation, although it was not clear when the meeting would take place.
There has been no official comment from Orioles management, but Felipe Alou Jr., the club's Dominican Republic Academy coordinator, told The Baltimore Sun that he and another Orioles representative in the Dominican Republic had spoken with Simon at least twice by telephone since the incident became known.
"What Alfredo said himself was that he was at the place it happened, a person was killed and one went to the hospital, but he had nothing to do with it," said Alou, who added that an attorney representing Simon had been in contact with the Dominican police.
Alou said Simon talked on Sunday with the Orioles academy's assistant administrator, Jorge Perozo, apparently from a home the pitcher maintains in his native Santiago, a province immediately south of Puerto Plata and about a 30-minute drive from the shooting. Police said they went to the home and he was not there.
Ramon Guerrero, an editor at the daily newspaper El Nacional, published in Santo Domingo, said his reporters had established from one of Simon's parents that the pitcher planned to give himself up on Monday.
Both Cuevas, the Luperon inspector, and another police official said detectives had gone several times to his parents' home. The parents live in Luperon, and Simon had been staying there before the shooting. The family has not seen him since, said Sergeant-Major J. Lopez-Reyes, of Puerto Plata's provincial Police Department.
"We haven't been able to contact him yet, but we've spoken with the parents to see whether they might turn him in if he shows up," Lopez-Reyes said. He went on to say that detectives were also looking for witnesses to the shootings, which he suggested might have been prompted by the sort of uncontrolled end-of-year revelry that sometimes induces people with guns to fire them.
Lopez-Reyes said also that, in their effort to find Simon, officials had issued the equivalent of an all-points bulletin, which typically alerts other law enforcement agencies, as well as airports and other points of exit, to a suspect's description.
Simon is suspected of killing 25-year-old Michel Castillo Almonte and wounding his 17-year-old half-brother in the right shoulder. Police said Sunday afternoon that the teenager remained hospitalized at the Centro Medico Bournigal but was "fine."
Signed by the Orioles out of the Mexican League in 2008, Simon pitched in four big-league games that season, including one start. He began 2009 in the Orioles' rotation, making just two starts before injuring his right elbow.
He had ligament replacement surgery in May 2009, a procedure that usually takes at least one year of rehabilitation. But Simon was back at spring training the following February, receiving rave reviews from club officials for his work ethic and commitment. He had 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 with 3.24 in 25 games in the first half.
A 6-foot, 6-inch, 230-pound right-hander whose fastball reaches into the high 90s, Simon's physical stature belies a shy, reserved nature in the clubhouse. However, Simon was embroiled in an on-field controversy on Sept. 26 in Toronto when he hit Blue Jays' slugger Jose Bautista with a pitch after both sides had been warned following similar incidents earlier in the game.