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Interest is shown in Mondesi

Page full of 2 -- The Red Sox are among five teams that have shown interest in outfielder Raul Mondesi, according to a source with direct knowledge of their conversations.

Mondesi, who was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wake of a bizarre legal situation he is facing in his native Dominican Republic, is expected to sign with a team by the end of the week, the source said.

Mondesi, 33, played in just 26 games with the Pirates, who terminated his contract when he did not return from an 11-day leave of absence to address his legal problems in the Dominican, which revolve around a claim made by former Sox shortstop Mario Guerrero that Mondesi owes him $640,000. The money is owed, Guerrero claims, for the assistance he gave Mondesi in launching his professional career. A court ruled in Guerrero's favor, and an appeal is scheduled for next month.

Mondesi returned to the Dominican, according to the source, because Guerrero had been "overzealous" trying to collect his money.

"People were showing up at Mondesi's home with guns, trying to seize his assets," the source said.

But apparently Mondesi has received assurances that the government will protect his relatives and property, so he is prepared to resume playing.

The Sox have a need for both a right fielder and a righthanded bat off the bench, given the back and quadriceps injuries that have sidelined Trot Nixon and the knee surgery that has sidelined Ellis Burks. Mondesi is an above-average defensive player with one of the strongest arms in baseball.

The Pirates signed him for just a fraction of the $13 million he was paid by the Yankees in 2003, giving him a contract for $1.15 million in 2004 and an $8 million option for 2005 with a $600,000 buyout. Mondesi's agents are confident he will sign a new deal that will guarantee him more than the $1.75 million he would have received from the Pirates, and they are looking for a two-year deal.

"I'm not sure the Red Sox are willing to step up to that level," the source said.

The Sox have asked that Mondesi's agents speak to them again before making a move, but there were indications last night that the Sox aren't likely to sign him unless they can do it for nominal dollars.

The Angels, who recently lost Tim Salmon and Troy Glaus to injury, are also interested, the source said, along with the Cardinals, Mariners, and Dodgers.

They meet again

Rarely has a baseball matchup ended more emotionally than last season's American League Division Series between the Sox and A's, who meet again tonight at Fenway Park. When Derek Lowe fanned Terrence Long to clinch the series after the Sox lost the first two games of the best-of-five thriller, his celebratory gestures so offended the A's that shortstop Miguel Tejada, in tears or rage, vowed to exact revenge.

Tejada was far from alone. Lowe's former catcher, Scott Hatteberg, described the gestures as "classless and unprofessional."

All of which suggests Oakland's three-game visit to the Fens could unleash some bitterness. But the Sox weren't buying it.

"I don't think it's that big a deal," Kevin Millar said, noting the teams and circumstances have changed.

After all, Lowe said he never intended to offend anyone and apologized if he did. Tejada has moved on to Baltimore. Hatteberg is highly unlikely to make a scene in the park he called home for seven years. And Keith Foulke, one of Oakland's leaders last year, has switched sides.

"Is it a rivalry just because of what happened in the playoffs?" Alan Embree said. "They're a different team. They lost Keith and Miguel, two of the keys of their team. Those were two of the passionate guys in those playoffs. I'm not taking away from the other players they have, but it's going to be hard to match the competitiveness that we had during the playoffs."

Cooking at home

The Sox are 14-6 at home and have won 10 of their last 13 games in the Fens, outscoring opponents, 80-50. All told, the Sox are batting .290 at home (.248 on the road) while logging a 3.70 ERA (3.35 on the road). Johnny Damon has flourished at Fenway, batting .333 with a .424 on-base percentage at home. He has hit .250 with a .345 on-base percentage on the road . . . While the Sox awaited the second opinion Bill Mueller was scheduled to receive from an orthopedic surgeon in Phoenix, Nixon continued to make progress, going 2 for 4 with a double in an extended spring training game in Fort Myers, Fla. The Sox said Nixon ran and slid hard into second base on the double without any problem. He played three innings in right field without any action . . . Manager Terry Francona noted that five of the six players the Sox invited to a rookie development program at Fenway last winter have made their Boston debuts: Kevin Youkilis, Anastacio Martinez, Jamie Brown, Mark Malaska, and Phil Seibel. "It was huge to get to see the environment so when I came here I knew where everything was and who everyone in the organization was if I needed help," Youkilis said . . . The Sox, who had yesterday off, will have their next off day June 3 during a swing through Anaheim and Kansas City. They were originally scheduled to have next Monday off, but they will play a makeup game at home against the Orioles at 1:05 p.m. 

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