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Rijo Takes Leave Of Absence

Jose Rijo, the Washington Nationals front office member linked most closely to the fraudulent signing of a Dominican prospect, has taken a leave of absence from the team.

Rijo, who has worked for the team since 2005 as a special assistant to the general manager, remains a team employee, but there is no timetable for his return.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball investigators determined that Washington prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez had been signed by the Nationals while using a false name and age. Gonzalez, thought to be 16 at the time of the July 2006 signing, was actually four years older, and named Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo. Rijo, who spends most of his time running the Nationals' facility in the Dominican Republic, had been with the team in Viera, Fla., during spring training workouts, spending time as an instructor.

But after speaking with team officials yesterday, both Rijo and the team decided that he should depart. He is flying back to the Dominican Republic tomorrow, Rijo said. His jersey still hangs in a locker stall for Washington's coaching staff.

"I just feel like I'm too much of a distraction right now," Rijo said. "And I want the team to be able to concentrate."

Rijo's central role in the Gonzalez signing has prompted questions about his intentions when brokering the deal. Rijo scouted Gonzalez for two years before the July 2006 signing. During negotiations, Washington dealt with Dominican street agent Basilio Vizcaino, a childhood friend of Rijo's. Every other team interested in the shortstop negotiated through Gonzalez's then-agent, Rob Plummer. The Nationals ended up rewarding Gonzalez with a $1.4 million signing bonus, the most the team has ever paid for an international player.

Even before the revelation about the Gonzalez fraud, Rijo's name surfaced last summer during the FBI's ongoing investigation into baseball's scouting practices in the Dominican. Because of the network of street agents, or buscones, the landscape for player development is rife with possibilities for money skimming and age falsification. Rijo, speaking today, denied wrongdoing, adding, "Everybody else will find out about the truth in time."

Washington President Stan Kasten said that Rijo remains an employee of the organization, but there is no timetable for his return.

"Jose is on a leave," Washington team president Stan Kasten said. "With all the questions swirling and all the work being done still on this matter, we felt it would be a good time to be away from here."

Once back in the Dominican, Rijo said that he will spend time at the Nationals' baseball facility. He will also spend time with his mother, who is battling liver cancer, he said, and has been told she has two months to live.

"I had better ways to make use of my time," Rijo said.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 21, 2009; 3:44 PM ET
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Paraphrased from prior string - Rijo just became a "dead man walking" in MLB. The question is, will he take the full fall, or are there others that will go down with him?

Posted by: BinM | February 21, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

huh. leave of absence is what they call it these days eh?

sounds like "Get the Eff out of Viera, and don't come back" to me.

Posted by: MrMadison | February 21, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Could this be the beginning of the fall of the House of JimBow? Possibly having one of his closest confidants on the chopping block has got to make Bottom Feeder Bowden sweat a little. Not only are there questions about the propriety of the Gonzalez/Lugo signing, but Rijo owns the team's Dominican development facility - a red flag if there ever was one - and may heve steered the Gonzalez/Lugo negotiations to a buscone he knows well. I'm convinced JimBow kept his job after the Lerners bought the team because he convinced them he could save money by cutting corners and bottom feeding for low-to-moderate salaried players just like he did with the Reds. Sometimes, the chickens come home to roost.

Posted by: leetee1955 | February 21, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that Stan fired....oh sent Jose R home not his boss.....Jimbo is on thin ice indeed....looks like Stan finally has his opportunity to grab the power back from Jimbo......Ted must have been very angry with little Mark about the friends he picked to hang with....

Posted by: JayBeee | February 21, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse


Let's hope JimBow is the next person sent home by Stan the Plan Man.For good.

Posted by: leetee1955 | February 21, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

A leave of absence indeed...

Good for Rijo that the owners name is Lerner and not Corleone. If that were the case, it may time for swimming with the fishes.

Posted by: TimDz | February 21, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Good thing for Rijo that the owners name is Lerner and not Corleone...

Otherwise, he'd be swimming with the fishes by now...

Posted by: TimDz | February 21, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I think my computer has developed an echo....

Posted by: TimDz | February 21, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

You know who we have not heard from since camp opened? Jimmy B. Stan is finally taking the reins, as he should have when he and the Lerners bought the team. Stan should hire one of those 28 year old Harvard graduates who would money-ball this club right to the world series.

Posted by: 6thandD | February 21, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Y'all saw on Baseball Insider that Juan Cruz and Joe Crede are gong to go to the Twins? Cruz on a sign and trade to avoid the compensation issue. That, and Seattle signing their #1 pick Josh Fields, would move the Nats 2d round draft choice up 2 slots.

Beimel, Ohman, Reyes, and Villone still don't have jobs. Love to see us sign one.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 21, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Lets not be to hasty in dismissing JB. He isn't the first person in the world of baseball to be duped in the DR. Nor will he be the last. I wouldn't close the coffin lid on Rijo either. Let us all just wait and see where the investigation goes before we vigilante JB and company to the gallows. On with the season.

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 21, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

"You know who we have not heard from since camp opened? Jimmy B"

Um, yes we have heard from him. He was in Arizona, where he signed Willingham and Zimmerman before they had to go to arbitration hearings. Zimmerman's agent had good things to say about JimBo, actually. Also I wouldn't be surprised if he caught Strasburg pitch last night. Anyone know if he was there?

Bowden may not be in Viera right now, but he's far from out of the picture or on any kind of thin ice, it would appear.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 21, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

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