Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria returned to spring training on Saturday.
A day earlier, while his teammates began full-squad workouts at Roger Dean Stadium, Hechavarria was testifying in a federal courtroom in Miami in a Cuban baseball players smuggling trial involving sports agent Bart Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada.
Hernandez and Estrada are charged with smuggling Cuban players into the United States through Mexico and the Caribbean in order to profit from their multimillion-dollar contracts with Major League Baseball teams.
“I was requested to be there by the FBI, so I appeared and I said everything I knew,” Hechavarria said. “It’s not something that is really on my mind or that I am worried about or bringing to the park.”
Hechavarria, who is entering his fifth season with the Marlins, said it felt good to be back with his teammates and felt positive about the team’s outlook for the upcoming season.
“I’m feeling good to be here since today is my first day,” Hechavarria said. “My teammates look very motivated, and I see a lot of excitement on their faces.”
Hechavarria isn’t through appearing in court yet though.
Hechavarria said he will have to testify again on Tuesday, when he can be cross-examined by Hernandez’s defense attorney.
During his testimony, Hechavarria said that federal agents first questioned him about the smuggling operation in 2012, and that he lied at first about knowing a Hialeah middleman named Eliezer Lazo, who was suspected of collaborating with Hernandez, Estrada and others to bring more than 20 top Cuban ballplayers into the United States.
In exchange for his testimony, Hechavarria received immunity from criminal prosecution.
Hechavarria said that Tuesday’s court appearance would likely be the last he would have to make.
“To be honest, what’s happening in the court isn’t really worrying me,” Hechavarria said. “I just have to go and tell the truth. It isn’t something lingering that has me concerned. That’s going to run its course.
“After Tuesday, I’ll be 100 percent focused on baseball and the rest is out of my control.”
Hechavarria defected from Cuba to Mexico in 2009 and eventually signed a $10 million contract with the Blue Jays. After making his debut in 2012 in Toronto, Hechavarria was traded to the Marlins the following season.
Hechavarria was a Gold Glove finalist in 2015 before a hamstring injury cut his season short. He played in 23 more games last season but saw his errors increase from nine to 13 and his fielding percentage drop from .984 to .977.
His hitting decline was the biggest cause for concern.
Hechavarria hit only .236 last year after batting .281 in 2015 and .276 in 2014. He said Saturday that he’s feeling healthier than he did all of last season.
“My legs feel well and I’m feeling 100 percent, which is something I could never say last year,” Hechavarria said. “I think I can go a full season this year.”
Hechavarria said his off-field situation has not had an adverse effect on his performance.
“It would be hard for someone keeping their mind in two places, if you’re worried about what’s happening in court and what’s happening on the baseball field,” Hechavarria said. “But honestly, thank God, that is not my case. I’m just worried about baseball and this coming season.”
Miami Herald reporter Jay Weaver contributed to this report.
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