Braves general manager John Schuerholz confirmed the team has signed Mondesi to a one-year contract only after "we did a lot of due diligence" in investigating the problems that shortened Mondesi's 2004 season with Pittsburgh and Anaheim.
"This guy is serious to get back on track," Schuerholz said. "He's still a young guy and has a good body and this could be a
wonderful opportunity for him to get his career back on track. We
expect it to benefit him and us."
Mondesi told The Associated Press that his base salary of $1 million could be boosted by performance bonuses worth as much as $700,000.
After losing J.D. Drew to free agency and trading Charles Thomas and Eli Marrero, the Braves had holes in left field and right field. Schuerholz said left field "is still a work in progress"
but said Mondesi, 33, should fill the void left by Drew in right.
"We have great confidence in him," Schuerholz said. "You look
at his stats before last year when he had the off year for a lot of
reasons ... family issues and personal issues ... you look at his
stats up through 2003 and he was averaging almost 30 home runs a
year and almost 90 RBIs and he's a Gold Glove caliber outfielder.
We really think he adds a lot of substance to our outfield."
Mondesi met with Braves officials Friday morning, but Schuerholz said the team already had thoroughly investigated the problems.
Mondesi began the 2004 season with Pittsburgh, but the Pirates terminated his contract on May 19, 12 days after he left the team to return to his native Dominican Republic.
Mondesi said he had to fight a lawsuit by former major leaguer Mario Guerrero, who said Mondesi promised him 1 percent of his major league earnings for helping develop his skills. Mondesi said last year he feared for his family's safety.
Asked Friday if the issue had been settled, Mondesi said "Almost."
"Oh yeah, believe me, when your mind is clear, everything is different," Mondesi said. "Nobody can play with those problems on his mind. Everything is clear and I want to play like my first year in 1994. I feel strong and everything is fine. I think I'm going to have a good year this year."
Mondesi tried to return to the major leagues last year, but the Angels terminated his contract after he failed to show up for a rehabilitation appointment following a leg injury. Mondesi was
placed on the disabled list because of a torn right quadriceps just
11 days after signing with Anaheim.
"We had a lot of people ask questions of others and what was behind it, what caused it, what the issues were, and all of that," Schuerholz said.
Mondesi said he also had an opportunity to sign with Baltimore.
"I don't want to go back to the American League," he said. "I want to play in the National League, especially for the Braves. They make the playoffs every year."
Mondesi said he is looking forward to playing for Braves manager Bobby Cox, and Schuerholz said Cox will provide the stable support Mondesi needs.
"Bobby and his coaching staff and the environment that they create around this team allows these guys to let their abilities
shine," Schuerholz said. "They feel relaxed and comfortable and
Mondesi, listed at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds last year, appeared to be in trim condition Friday.
"It's a validation that here is a guy who has already committed himself physically and mentally to get back to the condition he needs to be," Schuerholz said.
Mondesi was the NL Rookie of the Year with Los Angeles in 1994.
He hit 30 or more home runs from 1997-99. In 2003 with the New York Yankees and Arizona, he hit .272 with 24 homers and 71 RBI.
Mondesi has a career .275 batting average and ranks eighth among active players with 110 outfield assists.