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Posted at 05:07 PM ET, 05/31/2011

‘Smiley’ comes to America, playing at Nationals extended spring training


(Jonathan Newton)
Carlos David Alvarez Lugo – the Dominican shortstop once known as Esmailyn Gonzalez whom the Nationals gave a $1.3 million signing bonus under a false age and name – has acquired a work visa and is currently playing in the Nationals’ extended spring training camp, a Nationals source confirmed.

The Nationals had been attempting for the past two seasons to acquire a visa for Alvarez and fit him into their minor league system. While Alvarez lost his status as an elite prospect when he was revealed to be four years older than he claimed, “there’s no reason to give up on him,” a member of the Nationals front office said.

Last season, Alvarez played in the Dominican Summer League and hit .307/.470/.432, impressive numbers that meant little given his age – he was 24, playing a league comprised mostly of 17- and 18-year-olds. The Nationals are evaluating him and will likely send him to rookie ball at Class A Auburn.

Alvarez, now 25, was signed by Jim Bowden in 2006 and trumpeted as both a 16-year-old defensive wizard and a landmark acquisition for the Nationals’ international scouting department. Three years later, when it was learned he was actually 20 at the time of his signing, the fallout cost both Bowden and front office assistant Jose Rijo their jobs. Rijo is currently suing the Nationals for wrongful termination.

Last fall, then-Nationals President Stan Kasten acknowledged the Nationals wanted to bring Alvarez to the United States to continue his development. “He will get a chance to play wherever his skill would allow him to play,” Kasten said at the time.

By  |  05:07 PM ET, 05/31/2011

 
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