Pirates fed up with troubled outfielder

Updated: May 19, 2004, 7:37 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates finally ran out of patience with absent outfielder Raul Mondesi, terminating his contract Wednesday when he didn't show up for the start of a three-game series against San Diego.

Raul Mondesi
Left Field
Pittsburgh Pirates
26 2 14 8 0 .283

The Pirates cited breach of contract in ending all dealings with Mondesi, who was hitting .283 with two homers and 14 RBI when he left them May 7 to return to his native Dominican Republic and fight a lawsuit.

Mondesi was not disappointed by the Pirates' decision.

"I feel relieved now," Mondesi told The Associated Press. "I want the best for the Pirates, and considering my situation in the Dominican Republic I wasn't going to be much help to them at this moment. I have an issue to resolve and the Pirates have a schedule to complete. I understand that they've taken this measure."

Mondesi was paid approximately $192,000 of his guaranteed $1.75 million contract before leaving, but the Pirates are not required to pay any more money. He was due a $600,000 buyout if the team did not pick up his $8 million option for 2005.

Normally, clubs are responsible for the remainder of a player's contract if they release him, but Mondesi voluntarily left the Pirates.

"Initially, we were supportive of Raul and wanted to help him through this situation, with the idea of him coming back to play for us," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said. "But as time went on, and with us playing games every night, we had to make a call whether he was in or out. We gave him a deadline and he did not meet that deadline."

The Pirates were so quick to rid themselves of all connections to Mondesi, they pulled copies of their monthly team magazine with Mondesi on the cover and rushed out a new issue featuring shortstop Jack Wilson.

Mondesi said he was too distracted by family worries and the lawsuit when he didn't show up for the May 7 game against Los Angeles. Since then, the Pirates worked to get Mondesi back, but he told AP shortly after leaving that he wouldn't play for them again this season.

Still, Mondesi could play for another team this season if he chooses. If he clears waivers Friday, he becomes a free agent who can sign with any team. That team does not have to pick up Mondesi's contract and, should it choose, could give him more money than he was making in Pittsburgh.

"My next court date is June 13," Mondesi said. "Depending on what happens there, I'll make a decision about my immediate future in baseball."

Mondesi told several newspapers last week that he was dissatisfied with his Pittsburgh contract, but Littlefield doesn't think the salary concerns affected his decision not to return. Mondesi made $13 million last season with the Yankees and Diamondbacks.

Mondesi, 33, has a career batting average of .276 with 266 homers and 842 RBI in 12 seasons with the Dodgers, Blue Jays, Yankees, Diamondbacks and Pirates.

When Mondesi left the Pirates, he said he was fearful for his family's safety as he fights a lawsuit by former major leaguer Mario Guerrero, who says Mondesi promised him 1 percent of his major league earnings for helping develop his skills.

Mondesi argues he never 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.

Once the Pirates determined Mondesi wasn't coming back, they put outfielder J.J. Davis (injured pinky finger) on the disabled list and purchased the contract of outfielder Ruben Mateo from Triple-A Nashville.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press