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"So Calvino and I started negotiating one evening at the Hotel Naco," Abreu says. "I told Calvino that I wanted $5,000 for my nephew but that I would take $3,000 if I could be guaranteed that he wouldn't be released for at least two years. Calvino agreed to the guarantee."
The guarantee isn't mentioned in Rijo's contract, however. "I trust Calvino," Abreu says. "I believe he'll live up to his word."
Calvino, who no longer works for the Yankees, denies agreeing to the guarantee, which he points out is against baseball's rules, anyway. The stipulation against such guarantees obviously serves the clubs' interests, not the players'. "I didn't guarantee him anything," says Calvino, who was fired by New York last December and is now managing the Mexican League team in Mérida, Yucatan. "I know some scouts tell kids they'll get a guarantee, but I didn't do that. Rijo's not a good prospect—he's an outstanding prospect. He'll be a major-leaguer, no doubt about it."
Yankee director of scouting Bobby Hofman says, "Two-year guarantee? That's just some talk. We don't give minor league players two-year guarantees. We never have."
Regardless, Gladys Abreu is enthusiastic about her son's future. "I'm not worried about him, because he's quite a boy," she said, smiling, before his departure last April. "I'm positive that Jose's going to make it to the big leagues and make a big name for himself."
A faded smile.
"Of course, that's what I said about my brother."
The goodbys were quick. "Do your best," Rijo's mother told him.
"Do what your manager tells you and learn to speak English," his uncle said. "You'll cry when you get to the States. I know I did. But you'll be all right—if you think only about baseball."