Monday, April 26, 2004

Mondesi threatens to leave if not paid

By Enrique Rojas
The Associated Press

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Raul Mondesi threatened to leave the Pittsburgh Pirates if they don't pay him by the end of the month, then backed off his comments after meeting with team officials Sunday.

"If by April 30 they don't pay me, I'll pack up my things and come back to the Dominican Republic," Mondesi told The Associated Press by telephone before a game against the Cincinnati Reds.

A Dominican civil court ruled in February that Mondesi owed former major leaguer Mario Guerrero about $640,000 for helping him improve his baseball skills, a claim which Mondesi denies.

Mondesi appealed the ruling; he said the court ordered his accounts in nine Dominican banks frozen, and the Pirates are withholding his pay.

During a meeting with Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield and manager Lloyd McClendon after Sunday's 6-0 victory over the Reds, Mondesi told them he wasn't planning to leave the team.

"Raul's very happy to be a Pirate and he's going to be here May 1," McClendon said.

Mondesi did not talk to reporters after the game, but also told publicist Jim Trdinich that he wasn't leaving the team.

The Pirates have said they are depositing Mondesi's salary in a special account until the case is resolved. The outfielder is earning $1.15 million this season.

"He's been aware of this (since February). He's been on board with what we're doing," Littlefield said.

Littlefield also said the Pirates helped Mondesi get a lawyer in the Dominican to handle the situation.

"Obviously, we are not trying to make our player unhappy, but we believe that we have to comply with the court order," Pirates VP of communications Patty Paytas said earlier this month.

On Sunday, Mondesi said: "I'm not going to throw my money away to Guerrero, nor will I play for free in the major leagues. I prefer to go home and be with my children. I have never taken my children to school during the season and it's something that I'd like to do for the first time."

Teammates said Mondesi is worried about his children, badly misses them and wants to get them to Pittsburgh as soon as possible, a situation that is compounding the battle over his salary.

Mondesi, batting .318 with two home runs and 11 RBIs, said he was surprised when he didn't get a paycheck April 15, even though the Pirates insist he knew why the money was held back.

"It's really laughable," he told the AP. "I'm paying all of my expenses without knowing when I'll recover my money."

Guerrero sued Mondesi and a handful of other players in 1998, saying they had promised Guerrero 1 percent of their future salaries for teaching them baseball skills that would prepare them for the major leagues.

Some players have settled with Guerrero out of court, while others have cases pending.

Mondesi, the 1994 NL Rookie of the Year with Los Angeles, denied Guerrero's claim.

"I never signed an agreement with Guerrero and he didn't teach me anything," he said. "I won't let him blackmail me."

Mondesi's appeal of the payment ruling is scheduled to begin June 19.

In his major league career, Mondesi has batted .276 with 266 home runs and 839 RBIs. He went 2-for-3 Sunday.

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