Palmeiro wants reunion with Gonzalez

Thursday, July 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON – Juan Gonzalez returns to The Ballpark in Arlington on Thursday for the first time since the Rangers traded the two-time Most Valuable Player award winner to Detroit last November.

Former teammate Rafael Palmeiro wants the reunion to last much longer than the weekend.

Palmeiro said Wednesday that he would be willing to talk about restructuring his contract during the offseason to allow the team leeway to make a run at Gonzalez, a potential free agent.

"I'm not making any offers, but if they want to talk about options, I'm willing to talk about options," said Palmeiro, who is the highest-paid Ranger at $9 million per season. "I don't even know what those options might be, but I want people to know that I am interested in having Juan return. My opinion is that if the Rangers are fair with him, he would be interested in returning."

Rangers general manager Doug Melvin would not comment on Palmeiro's offer or Gonzalez on Wednesday because doing so would constitute a tampering violation. Other marquee players – most recently Ken Griffey, Jr. – have offered to re-negotiate their contracts in an effort to either keep or add other star players. Griffey offered to do it last weekend in an effort to keep teammate Barry Larkin in Cincinnati. The Reds re-signed Larkin but didn't take Griffey up on the offer.

Gonzalez, who was scheduled to come off the disabled list Wednesday after missing nearly three weeks with a sore ankle, has mostly been quiet about his future since the Rangers dealt him. He turned down an eight-year, $148 million offer from Detroit during the spring. He also turned down a trade to the New York Yankees in June when the sides couldn't agree on contract parameters.

He did, however, tell his former Rangers teammates earlier this year that he would like to return to Texas, where he spent the first 11 years of his major league career.

He also told Detroit reporters Monday that he might be more willing to stay with the Tigers if they would move in the fences at spacious new Comerica Park.

"In my opinion, it's necessary," Gonzalez said.

While Gonzalez remained otherwise quiet, his confidant and former Rangers employee, Luis Mayoral, suggested that Gonzalez wished to remain in Detroit.

"I have a gut feeling that the man will remain a Tiger," said Mayoral, who left the Rangers within a month of the Gonzalez trade. "Not once has he told me he wouldn't. The Juan I know likes to feel rooted. He likes to stay in one place."

It has been a long struggle for both sides since the Nov. 3 trade in which the Rangers sent Gonzalez, reliever Danny Patterson (currently on the disabled list) and catcher Gregg Zaun (since traded) to the Tigers for outfielder Gabe Kapler, pitchers Justin Thompson (out for the year with shoulder surgery) and Francisco Cordero, infielder Frank Catalanotto, catcher Bill Haselman and minor league pitcher Alan Webb.

Both teams began play Wednesday out of range in the playoff races. The Rangers were 10 1/2 games back in the AL West and 6 1/2 games out of the wild card. The Tigers trailed AL Central leader Chicago by 15 games and were 71/2 games out of the wild-card race.

Rangers teammates stopped short of saying that Gonzalez, who has missed 32 games with an assortment of injuries, was the answer to the team's problems this year. One thing they all agreed on, however, was the team needed more offensive punch.

"When he left, we lost a big part of the offense," Rusty Greer said. "Whether or not he comes back is totally up to him and Doug Melvin. We will just have to wait and see."