NEW YORK (AP) – Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez avoided jail today by pleading guilty to attempted assault after he was accused of attacking his girlfriend’s father at Citi Field last season.
The 28-year-old reliever was accused of grabbing Carlos Pena, hauling him into a tunnel near the family lounge beneath the team’s ballpark and punching him in the face after an Aug. 11 game.
He tore a ligament in the thumb of his pitching hand and underwent season-ending surgery.
The incident cost the four-time All Star more than $3.14 million, in addition to more than seven weeks on the sidelines. And he’s spent months trying to repair his image, apologizing to fans and to the league repeatedly.
Rodriguez also pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for sending dozens of text messages begging his girlfriend Daian Pena for forgiveness after he was told by a judge not to contact her.
He sent her 56 text messages in the weeks after his court date.
The messages started out contrite but got progressively angrier. “Thank you for sinking me turning your back, take good care of my children … and now I see that your were with me because of the money …” he wrote in the final message on Aug. 23, according to the Queens district attorney’s office.
Daian Pena, who is the mother of twins with Rodriguez, never responded.
The judge ordered Rodriguez to keep away from her.
He was sentenced to a conditional discharge, meaning as long as he completes treatment he will stay out of jail. Rodriguez already had been taking anger management classes, according to his attorney, Christopher Booth.
Rodriguez left court without speaking to reporters.
“Mr. Rodriguez is very glad to have this incident behind him,” Booth said. “He’s looking forward to the 2011 season.”
The Mets issued a statement that said, “We are pleased that Francisco has accepted responsibility for his actions. We are encouraged that he will continue to undergo therapy and is committed to taking steps to improve himself.”
The guilty pleas today resolve both the case involving Carlos Pena and the violation of the restraining order against Daian Pena. Rodriguez had faced a year in jail on the top charge of third-degree assault.
Rodriguez was restricted for two days without pay after the initial arrest and was booed when he came to the mound.
The players’ union had filed a grievance protesting how the team handled the case after the Mets refused to pay him on the disqualified list, and tried to exercise a contractual right to convert the rest of his $37 million, three-year deal to nonguaranteed, meaning they could try to avoid paying most of what’s left on it.
The grievance was settled Oct. 19. Under the agreement between Major League Baseball and the players’ association, the Mets stopped trying to convert the remainder of the contract to nonguaranteed.
Rodriguez is expected to pitch this season. He signed with the Mets after saving 62 games with the Angels in 2008. He was 4-2 with 25 saves and a 2.24 ERA last season.
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