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Mondesi’s Return to Lineup Brings a Round of Applause

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Raul Mondesi returned to Dodger Stadium on Sunday to face the fallout from his recent arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol.

He returned to the lineup a day after team officials prohibited him from playing because of his arrest and detention early Saturday morning at the Glendale city jail. But the center fielder’s experience wasn’t as difficult as it could have been.

He was offered encouragement from teammates and coaches, and he wasn’t verbally abused by fans during the Dodgers’ 3-2, 12-inning loss to the Colorado Rockies. That might not seem like much, but it was significant for the guy in the spotlight.

“It was good to be back with my teammates,” said Mondesi, who was hitless in four at-bats. “They talked to me and [gave] me support, and they’re trying to help me.

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“The fans. . . . the fans were good. Everything helped me today.”

His teammates in particular.

The Dodgers have become accustomed to rallying around their own during each unsettling event during their difficult season. They haven’t had much practice with Mondesi’s problem--but they’re quick learners.

“Part of being a team is letting your teammates lean on you when they need to, so you have to be there for him at a time like this,” outfielder Gary Sheffield said. “You have to let him and his family know that there are people out there who want to help.

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“In a situation like this, that’s important. You’re not talking about right or wrong, you’re just talking about being there to pick him up.”

Manager Bill Russell hasn’t wavered in his support for Mondesi.

“He made a mistake and he feels bad about what’s happened,” said Russell, who is trying to hold the embattled Dodgers together.

“He’s a big part of this team and he’s a leader on the field. Everyone knows that there’s been a lot going on, but that’s just the way it is, and we have to keep our focus.”

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Mondesi is scheduled to be arraigned July 8 in Glendale municipal court, according to Mondesi’s attorney, Myles Berman. The Glendale office of the district attorney has until the arraignment to file charges.

Mondesi was given a blood-alcohol test after being pulled over, which determined his blood-alcohol level to be 0.083%. The legal limit for driving in California is 0.08%.

Mondesi declined to discuss specifics Sunday about the incident, but in conjunction with Jeffrey Moorad, who represents Mondesi in baseball-related matters, a statement was released expressing his regret about the allegations.

“I want the Dodger fans to know that I take my responsibility as a role model very seriously,” the statement read. “Therefore, I am understandably concerned about the seriousness of the allegations. I regret the impact that this incident has had on the fans.”

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The Dodgers also declined to comment, but Fred Claire, executive vice president, issued a statement to clarify the club’s position.

“I met with Raul today, and I know he understands the seriousness of the allegations that have been brought against him and the responsibility that he has to the Dodger organization, his teammates and the fans,” Claire’s statement read. “Raul, like any individual, is entitled to exercise the rights accorded to him by the legal process.

“Although Raul was examined and found physically fit to play in [Saturday’s] game, we withheld him from the game because we were concerned about his well-being after undergoing a difficult experience.”

While major league baseball’s drug policy has evolved over the years through the cooperative efforts of the players union and the commissioner’s office, the policy regarding alcohol use is less clear and normally rests with each organization’s employee-assistance program.

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It is expected that the Mondesi incident will be allowed to play out in court, and unlikely that it would result in a suspension, said Eugene Orza, associate general counsel of the players union.

“Ordinarily, the player isn’t subjected to any disciplinary action,” Orza said. “If the club feels they’d like to have the player evaluated, they can make a request through the [player relations committee].”

The player relations committee and union have a procedure in which representatives of the union, the committee and their medical representatives would evaluate the player. However, his availability to the club would only be effected, Orza said, if it was determined that he had a chronic problem.

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Times Staff Writer Ross Newhan contributed to this story.


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