TACOMA, Wash. (AP) -The 2,900 miles between Yankee Stadium and Cheney Stadium doesn't begin to describe Julio Mateo's journey during the last three weeks.
The troubled relief pitcher warmed up before a game Thursday for the first time since prior to his May 5 arrest for allegedly assaulting his wife at a Manhattan hotel. He's now with Triple-A Tacoma, instead of the Seattle Mariners.
``I am very happy to be back. I am very excited to be getting a second opportunity,'' an apologetic Mateo said at a stadium he hasn't pitched in since 2002.
After Mateo's arrest, the Mariners demoted Mateo to Triple-A and then suspended him for 10 days without pay. He's gone to counseling and then to Arizona, where he pitched in extended spring training.
The players' union is pushing a pending grievance over Mateo's suspension and the $54,645 of his $1 million salary this year he stands to lose from Seattle's punishment. The Mariners will activate Mateo on Friday, and he is expected to pitch for the first time since May 3 during Tacoma's weekend series in Tucson, Ariz.
``He's cooperated fully with every thing we've asked of him,'' Mariners assistant general manager Lee Pelekoudas said. ``He's cooperated with the authorities. And he's been a willing participant in everything we've asked of him. That's part been encouraging.
``This is the right thing to do, probably.''
But some believe Mateo may be back too soon. He is due back in Manhattan for a hearing on third-degree assault on June 15.
Mateo didn't directly respond when asked if he will plead guilty to the charge.
``The situation in New York is an unfortunate situation between my wife and I,'' he said. ``It's one of those things that no one will know except for my wife and I.''
Mateo said he has not seen or talked to his wife or his young son Julio Jr. since his arrest, the result of a restraining order against him. Pelekoudas said there has been ``some contact'' between the Mariners and Mateo's wife.
``I am dying to speak to her and my child,'' Mateo said. ``But I must obey those restrictions and continue to obey those restrictions.''
Pelekoudas was standing a few feet from Mateo as he spoke from the cold concrete grandstand of the old stadium.
``Obviously, the organization as a whole deplores domestic violence. We take it very seriously,'' Pelekoudas said. ``Along with the punishment that we levied against Julio, we also felt a responsibility. Julio served his time, in essence, the 10-day suspension. But we also felt the responsibility that when someone asked for help, we give him help. And Julio did that.''
But the Mariners are not promising Mateo will be back in Seattle. Not yet.
``I'm not going to address Seattle. It's a step-by-step process. The only thing we are going to address is the first step, and that's getting him back on the field here,'' Pelekoudas said.
Mateo said ``it is going to be difficult'' dealing with how fans may receive him upon his return to the mound.
``I am working hard to gain that trust back with the fans, to show them I am not that person, to rebuild my image,'' the native of Bani, Dominican Republic, said through an interpreter.
Pelekoudas called domestic assault ``a delicate subject, and a very important subject'' and said the Mariners will be watching to see how fans treat Mateo while he pitches for Tacoma.
``Everyone has their own emotions about it. It's something we're going to be mindful of it, certainly,'' Pelekoudas said. ``We'll monitor it. Whether it affects what we do remains to be seen.''
Mateo was 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in nine games for Seattle.
Mateo's case is not the only domestic violence issue baseball is dealing with. Tampa Bay Devil Rays rookie outfielder Elijah Dukes was out of the lineup for the second straight game Thursday against the Mariners after a published report that he made threats against his estranged wife.
Pelekoudas said the Mariners have not heard from the commissioner's office on the Mateo issue, calling it a team matter.
This is the latest chapter to a 14-month nightmare for Mateo. He missed most of spring training last season when he returned to the Dominican Republic following the death of his brother in an automobile accident. He came back and was 9-4 with a 4.19 ERA in 48 games. In late August a weight plate fell onto his left hand and broke it. He missed the rest of the season.
Now this.
``It's been difficult,'' Mateo said. ``But I am concentrating on the current. I am moving forward.''
He said he never feared the Mariners were going to release him.
``I don't fear anything,'' he said. ``I haven't killed anybody. I don't sell drugs. I've never done anything like that. I am proud to have a second opportunity.
``While I continue to work hard, I am disappointed in myself, in the things that have happened. I am working hard with my counselor and I will continue meeting with her. This is not going to happen again.''

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