Originally created 04/22/00

Gonzalez denies saying he'll leave Tigers



DETROIT -- Juan Gonzalez denies saying he plans to leave the Detroit Tigers after this season.

ESPN's Web site reported Thursday that Gonzalez "is telling every opposing player he talks with that he has no intention of signing a long-term contract with the Tigers."

"I didn't say anything. I'm happy here," Gonzalez said before Friday's game at the Chicago White Sox.

"I never say nothing about I don't like Detroit, or the trade or the contract," Gonzalez said. "I was quiet. I don't know who is talking about that Juan doesn't like Detroit."

In a statement released by the Tigers, Gonzalez was quoted as saying: "Though we are off to a disappointing start on the field, I can honestly say that I am happier now than I have ever been in my career. Our policy all along has been to not discuss anything related to negotiations concerning a long-term contract. I will, however, say that in no way have I ruled out the distinct possibility of extending my contract and finishing my career with the Tiger organization."

Tigers general manager Randy Smith said Friday he's not putting much stock in the report until he hears it from Gonzalez or his agents.

"My understanding is that Juan has told people today that that report was not correct," Smith said. "The only thing I'll say is that Juan said during spring training that he's the happiest he's been in his career. We're glad he's here. We have a good relationship, and good relationships have a way of lasting."

Reports earlier this year said the Tigers offered the two-time AL MVP a $140 million, eight-year contract, which would be the richest deal in baseball history.

Smith refused to comment on the Gonzalez contract situation.

"Until something's resolved, these things will come up time to time," Smith said. "People will have their opinions about whether he'll sign or not. Unfortunately, we'll have to deal with this speculation."

Entering the White Sox series, Gonzalez was batting .308 with one home run and four RBIs. The Tigers' 4-10 record was the American League's worst.