OF still in Dominican, in 'game shape'

Updated: May 18, 2004, 7:37 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't ruled out a return by outfielder Raul Mondesi, perhaps as early as this week, but won't wait much longer for him to decide whether he wants to come back.

Mondesi said last week he wouldn't play again this season as he deals with a lawsuit brought by a former major leaguer, but has since told Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield he is working out and is in game shape.

"We've talked about the possibility of him coming in but, at some point, we've got to make a call," said Littlefield, who talked with Mondesi on Tuesday. "For both sides, we'll get this solved soon. ... We've talked to people daily, and we've had a lot of communication."

Mondesi left the Pirates to return to his Dominican Republic home on May 7, saying he was too distracted to keep playing. He expressed concern with his family's safety as he fights a lawsuit by former major leaguer Mario Guerrero, who says Mondesi promised to pay him 1 percent of his major league earnings for helping develop his skills.

Mondesi vehemently denies the claim, saying he never even met Guerrero until his career was well advanced. A Dominican civil court ruled in February that Mondesi owes Guerrero about $640,000, but Mondesi is appealing.

Mondesi told reporters last week he expects to remain in the Dominican until at least mid-June so the issue can be settled, but the Pirates are unwilling to wait that long for Mondesi to decide.

Should Mondesi return, the Pirates would not owe him any money for the time he missed. If Mondesi doesn't want to play, the Pirates likely would try to reach a settlement on his $1.15 million salary.

If an agreement can't be reached, the Pirates could keep him on major league baseball's restricted list for the rest of the season without being required to play him.

Mondesi left the Pirates shortly after receiving his first month's salary, which was being held in an interest-bearing escrow account until the Dominican court allowed it to be released.

Since Mondesi left the Pirates, he has expressed unhappiness with his salary, which is only about one-tenth of the $13 million he made last season with the Yankees and Diamondbacks. Mondesi signed with the Pirates because they were one of the few teams, if not the only team, that could promise him a starting job.

Littlefield said Mondesi's salary comments wouldn't be a distraction should he return.

"There's a lot of situations where players aren't satisfied with their contracts," Littlefield said.

Before leaving, Mondesi, 33, was hitting .283 with two homers and 14 RBIs, but hadn't homered since April 14. He has a career batting average of .276 with 266 homers and 842 RBIs in 12 seasons with the Dodgers, Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Diamondbacks and Pirates.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press