LAKELAND, Fla. -- New Tigers reliever Octavio Dotel said he feels sympathy for Juan Carlos Oviedo and Roberto Hernandez Heredia, two pitchers caught in lies about their age and name (and also currently caught in limbo). Dotel said one of the best things that ever happened to him was when his real age came out following the Sept. 11 tragedy and there was a sudden crackdown on birth certificates. Dotel gained two years in a day, and he didn't mind a bit.

"I was happy the truth came out,'' Dotel said. Today, he proudly tells people he is 38. He was born on Thanksgiving Day, 1973, and he has a lot to be thankful for. He also has no regrets about telling scouts who signed him he was 17 when he was really 19, either.

"If they had my real age back then, I probably wouldn't be here,'' Dotel said. "But I'm here now. Thirteen years in (the majors). I'm doing good. Maybe not the best, not Albert Pujols. But good enough.''

Dotel is so honest that when it is noted to him that he is playing for a record 13th team, the Tigers, he corrects, "I have to get in a game first. Then it'll be 13.''

Dotel said there's a need to fudge at first because he said most Dominicans develop late, and he understands anyone who does what he did. But he said that when players get to the big leagues, they should own up to their correct age. Dotel (that's his real name) said players who take a different name should reveal their real names, too.

"I feel bad for (Oviedo and Heredia),'' Dotel said of the pitchers previously known as Leo Nunez and Fausto Carmona of the Marlins and Indians, respectively. 'But after you get to the big leagues, why not tell the truth?''

Dotel said when he signed (real age 19 at the time) he was only throwing 84 or 85 mph. But two years later he was up to 90. "When you see a 16-, 17-, 18-year-old, your legs and arm aren't strong enough,'' Dotel said. "That's why a lot of players in the Dominican do that. If you're 17 and throwing 92, check that guy. That can not be. I started throwing hard at 25.''

Dotel said he needed American nutrition and training to develop into a major-league pitcher, and he never would have made it if he hadn't lied at first. "At 19, you are old to sign in the Dominican,'' Dotel said.

Dotel is an advocate for the truth now. Except in one case. "If you're still in the minor leagues,'' Dotel said, "stay the way you are.''