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Rijo’s Baseball Academy Almost Done

March 2, 1999

CINCINNATI (AP) _ Once Jose Rijo’s baseball academy in the Dominican Republic is complete, he intends to try to resurrect his baseball career one more time.

Despite nearly four years of elbow operations and comeback attempts, Rijo isn’t ready to retire. He said Monday that he hopes to sign another minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds in a few weeks, once he’s done supervising construction on the academy.

Rijo, 33, hasn’t pitched in a regular-season game since the first of his four major elbow operations in 1995. He’s throwing every other day without pain and wants to give his comeback one more try.

``I’m throwing (long distances) and I’m throwing short-toss real hard,″ Rijo said, in a telephone interview from the Dominican Republic. ``So I’m getting real close to getting to the mound; I’m thinking basically I’m ready right now. I’ve put so much time and money into the complex that I want to make sure everything is ready before I leave here.″

The Reds are willing to give their 1990 World Series MVP another chance to see if he can beat incredibly long odds and pitch again.

``For what he does for the organization on and off the field, we’re going to be as accommodating as we can,″ assistant general manager Doc Rodgers said Monday from the team’s training complex in Sarasota, Fla.

Rijo has spent most of the offseason supervising his baseball academy, which will develop young Dominican players. He said a hotel for players is finished and workers are putting the final touches on two fields.

``I want to make sure they’re doing it right,″ Rijo said. ``It’s going to be amazing.″

He estimated that the complex should be finished in two to three weeks. At that time, he’ll join the Reds in Sarasota to talk about a minor-league deal _ the same thing he has last season _ and discuss a working agreement for the academy.

The idea is for Rijo’s academy to develop players for the Reds. Rijo and the club have begun looking into how working agreements are structured between other teams and baseball academies in Latin America.

``We’re both putting together the paperwork,″ Rodgers said. ``One of the other reasons we anticipate him getting here is so we can work on that face-to-face. It’s probably all going to come together at the same time _ evaluate him as a player and nail down negotiations on the academy.″

The Reds will see how much progress Rijo has made in his throwing and go from there.

``We probably would have him come in and throw for us and see what his status is and go from there,″ Rodgers said. ``He’s worked as hard as anybody probably ever to get back on the mound and play competitively.″

Rijo experienced soreness in his elbow last spring, forcing him to back off of his rehabilitation program. He had the elbow ligament reattached in August 1997 _ the most recent of his four major operations.

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