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Final Year of Contract Puts Added Strain on Guerrero

June 20, 1988|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

The pain in Pedro Guerrero's neck is complicated by the hurt of an uncertain contract situation.

"This is a very important year for Pete," attorney Tony Attanasio said. "He doesn't want to play unless he's 100%. He has to think of both the club and himself."

Guerrero is in the final year of a 5-year contract that pays him $1.7 million this year. He is eligible for free agency when the season ends.

"It's important for me to put some numbers up," he said Sunday, meaning numbers of the type that might influence the Dodgers or another club to offer numbers similar to $1.7.

But Guerrero hasn't played since June 4 because of a pinched neck nerve caused by an arthritic condition that has weakened the muscles in his left shoulder. He is eligible to come off the disabled list today, but won't.

Electric muscle stimulation has lessened the discomfort, he said Sunday, but he added that he does not expect to play soon, that it will take several days of preparation once he is 100% and that it would be foolish to rush it, risking an aggravation that would set him back again.

"If I had another year on my contract, maybe I would take a shot (injection) and see what happens," he said.

"I could do it last year (play with the condition) because I knew I had another year and the pain wasn't as bad as now."

Now, though he is thinking of his own future, he added that he would merely be hurting the club by attempting to play.

"I could have a contract for the next 5 years and I wouldn't go out and play," he said. "I could put up some numbers, but not like I want. I have to be patient."

Executive Vice President Fred Claire said that's the way the Dodgers want it, that he has seen too many players come back too soon. Claire said it is up to Guerrero to decide when he is ready, but that neither the player nor his agent has brought up the contract aspect as a consideration.

"I go on the basis that all our players want to play," he said. "I have to. Otherwise, we have the wrong players, and I don't think that's the case with Pedro. I look on him as a great competitor. I saw him play last year with ice (as an injury remedy) all over him."

Guerrero sat at his locker Sunday, his frustration compounded by the news that good friend Mario Soto was released by the Cincinnati Reds. Guerrero found it hard to believe.

"It goes to show that they don't appreciate nothing in this game," he said. "It's like Tommy (Lasorda) says, 'what you did yesterday doesn't matter.'

"I could be out of the game next year, too, but I don't think it will happen. I have too much ability. I have so much confidence in myself that I know I'll be back, and that when I am, I'll explode."

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