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Cordero Excused for Missing a Day

March 25, 2000

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) _ Wil Cordero returned to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday, one day after surprising manager Gene Lamont by not showing up for an exhibition game.

Cordero was penciled into Lamont’s lineup for Friday’s game against the Atlanta Braves at the Disney complex and was listed on the travel squad posted in the Pirates’ clubhouse the day before.

But Cordero did not show up for the team bus, and Lamont never heard personally from Cordero he would not play. Cordero said he tried unsuccessfully to call Lamont and tell him a personal situation had come up, but couldn’t reach him.

General manager Cam Bonifay later talked to Cordero’s agent, Jeff Moorad, and was satisfied with his explanation. Neither the Pirates nor Cordero said Saturday why he was absent.

``He had a good excuse,″ Bonifay said.

Still, Lamont clearly was not happy a player he planned to play decided on his own to not show up for a game, especially since Cordero had missed time in camp twice earlier this spring.

``When something like this happens, I need to know,″ said Lamont, who said earlier that Cordero ``had better have a good excuse for this.″

Earlier, Cordero, who pled guilty in 1997 to wife-beating charges, was gone for three days to attend a child support hearing in Puerto Rico. He also missed five days with the flu, although he found time during that absence to have his hair tinted.

The Cleveland Indians also were unhappy last year when Cordero returned to his native Puerto Rico for about a month during the season while rehabilitating a broken wrist.

Still, Lamont and Bonifay attempted Saturday to downplay Cordero’s absence, no doubt to keep it from becoming a distraction only about a week away from the season opener.

``It has all been resolved,″ Lamont said. ``A personal problem came up and he didn’t know how to get me. Guys have personal problems.″

Lamont and Cordero met in the manager’s office before Saturday’s game against the Texas Rangers, and Lamont made certain Cordero had all of his phone numbers.

``He apologized and said it won’t happen again,″ Lamont said.

Because of Cordero’s track record, the Pirates knew they were taking a major gamble in December when they signed him to a $9 million, three-year contract.

At the time, Cordero’s only other offers were for one year and less than $1 million.

While playing for the Boston Red Sox, Cordero pled guilty in 1997 to wife-beating charges. The case caused a major stir in Boston and resulted in him drawing limited interest from teams the last two winters.

Cordero also was arrested in January 1999 for disturbing the peace following an altercation with his wife’s former husband in a Puerto Rico hotel on New Year’s Day.

At the time of the signing, Bonifay said of Cordero’s past, ``We did a lot of research about it and we feel very comfortable with him.″

However, the Pirates had some communication problems with Cordero even before spring training began.

They initially signed him with the intent of playing third base as they eased prospect Aramis Ramirez into the job. But, during an offseason meeting with Lamont in Puerto Rico, Cordero said he was uncomfortable at third base and wanted to play the outfield.

As a result, the Pirates hastily changed plans and said Ramirez would go into spring training as the starting third baseman. Cordero began spring training as a right fielder, but moved to left field, his preferred position, when Al Martin was traded to San Diego.

The Pirates are the fifth team for the 28-year-old Cordero in his nine major league seasons. He got a $500,000 signing bonus and will make $2 million in 2000, $2.5 million in 2001 and $4 million in 2002. He also can make up to $500,000 each year in performance bonuses.

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