Francisco Rodriguez Apologizes to Teammates, Mets Fans, Still Gets Booed in Return

NEW YORK — Mets closer
Francisco Rodriguez was booed Saturday night when he returned to the
mound, hours after he apologized to his teammates and fans for a
physical altercation at Citi Field that resulted in his arrest and
two-day suspension.

There were mostly boos when
Rodriguez ran in from the outfield bullpen to begin the ninth inning
with New York trailing Philadelphia by four runs. There was a second
chorus of boos when he was announced — though there were plenty of Phillies
fans in the ballpark.

Rodriguez worked a scoreless inning in the Mets' 4-0 loss.

Rodriguez rejoined his team three
days after he was arrested and charged with third-degree assault on his
girlfriend's father following a loss to Colorado. He stood before more
than two dozen TV cameras and reporters and recited a contrite
statement, but did not take any questions.

"First of all, I'm extremely
sorry," Rodriguez said in a small room across the hall from the Mets'
clubhouse at Citi Field. "I want to apologize to [owners] Fred Wilpon,
Jeff Wilpon
and Mr. [Saul] Katz for the incident that happened Wednesday
night. I want to apologize also to the Mets fans, to my teammates. I
want to apologize, of course, to the front office for the embarrassing
moment that I caused. I'm looking forward to being a better person.

"Right now the plan is I'm going
to be going to an anger management program," Rodriguez said. "I cannot
speak no farther about the legal stuff that we're going through right
now."

The 28-year-old reliever is
accused of grabbing 53-year-old Carlos Pena, hauling him into a tunnel
near the family lounge beneath Citi Field and hitting him in the face
and banging his head against the wall. Pena was taken to a hospital with
a scrape and swelling above his eyebrow, and Rodriguez was held at the
ballpark by authorities.

He appeared at a Queens
courthouse on Thursday, though he did not speak or enter a plea. Judge
Mary O'Donoghue issued orders of protection for him to stay away from
his girlfriend — Daian Pena, the mother of their 1-year-old twins — and
her father.

The Mets put Rodriguez, a
four-time All-Star, on the restricted list without pay for two days,
costing him more than $125,000. He is due back in court Sept. 14.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel said
that Rodriguez had apologized to him and planned to talk to his
teammates individually, rather than speak to them as a group. He also
said that he doesn't believe the issue will be a distraction for a team
that has already had a trying season.

"I knew that, knowing him, there
would be an apology," Manuel said. "I'm not a psychologist or anybody
like that, but from what I know of him and the experiences I've had with
him, I take it to be a very sincere apology."

The same temper that often
serves Rodriguez so well on the mound, where he emphatically punches his
fist after saves, has gotten him into trouble off the field before.

Last year, he got into a verbal
altercation with former Yankees reliever Brian Bruney during batting
practice at Yankee Stadium, then he had a clash with former Mets
executive Tony Bernazard on a team bus during a road trip. Earlier this
year, the fiery closer got into an argument with Mets bullpen coach
Randy Niemann during a game.

"I know whatever he had with
Randy, the bullpen, he was apologetic for that," Manuel said, when asked
about the repeated behavior. "The other incidents, I wouldn't know."

General manager Omar Minaya said
before Friday night's game that Rodriguez's behavior "is not
acceptable" and that the two-game suspension levied by the team was an
appropriate punishment.

Rodriguez is in the second
season of a guaranteed three-year, $37 million deal, a deal that would
best for 2012 at $17.5 million if he finishes 55 games next season and
remains healthy.

Rodriguez began the day at is 4-2 with 25 saves and a 2.24 ERA, matching his lowest earned-run average since 2006.

"He was apologetic as to the
position he put us in," Manuel said, "and felt the best way to repay us
is to go out and do his job."

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