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Moreno: Angels have means for recourse with Hamilton

Halos owner says contract has language addressing potential relapse

ANAHEIM -- Angels owner Arte Moreno said prior to Friday's home opener that Josh Hamilton's contract contains specific language that gives the team recourse in the event of an alcohol- or drug-related relapse. Moreno didn't go into specifics as to what that recourse would entail, but did hint that the team is pursuing action against its outfielder, who had a drug-related relapse late in the offseason and has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery over the past two months.

In response, the Major League Baseball Players Association said in a statement it "emphatically denies" that the Angels "requested and received the approval of the Union to insert language into Josh Hamilton's contract that would supersede the provisions of the Joint Drug Agreement and/or the Basic Agreement."

Seven days ago, an arbitrator ruled that Hamilton did not violate the terms of his treatment program, leaving MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred without flexibility to levy a suspension. All MLB contracts are guaranteed, and normally teams aren't allowed to include additional language that protects them against players using drugs of abuse or performance-enhancing substances.

But Moreno said it can be done if all sides -- the player, his agents, MLB and the MLBPA -- agree, which he said was the case with Hamilton.

"We have a contract with Hamilton, and in that contract, there's specific language that he signed, and his agents approved, that said he cannot drink and use drugs," Moreno said. "... When we started talking to him, we went through his past history, and we thought it was important to have language in our agreement."

The MLBPA refuted that, saying in its statement that "the collectively bargained provisions of the JDA and the Basic Agreement supersede all other player contract provisions and explicitly prevent clubs from exactly the type of action Mr. Moreno alluded to in his press comments."

The 33-year-old slugger hasn't been with the team all year. He didn't have a locker at the Angels' Spring Training facility and doesn't have one at Angel Stadium, either. Asked if he could say Hamilton will play a game for the Angels this season, Moreno said, "I will not say that."

A buyout or trade would be very difficult, given that Hamilton -- turning 34 in May, is recovering from surgery to his right A.C. joint on Feb. 4 and coming off two unproductive seasons -- is owed $83 million over the next three years and has a full no-trade clause.

Angels president John Carpino said in a statement last Friday that it "defies logic" Hamilton wasn't suspended, while general manager Jerry Dipoto expressed "disappointment" in his actions.

The Angels caught criticism for the tone of those comments, but Moreno said the club's disappointment wasn't related to not getting the salary relief that would come from a suspension.

"It's not about money," Moreno said. "Nothing about money."

Moreno flew with Carpino to Texas in December 2012, and met with Hamilton and his family. Then the Angels signed him to a five-year, $125 million contract on Dec. 13.

"We talked about his history," Moreno said. "He gave us a book that he wrote ['Beyond Belief'] and signed one for each one of us. We had a great afternoon and spent a lot of time talking about where he had been and specifically what process he was going through with Texas and how we would be willing to have someone with him at all times, and what our expectations were going forward."

Moreno hasn't spoken to Hamilton this spring. Asked why, Moreno said, "Probably disappointed. But I think more than anything, we look at accountability -- with all of our players."

"I think that's probably the biggest word here," Moreno added. "We understand that he's had struggles, and obviously he's still having struggles, but the reality is there's accountability. When you make an agreement, you need to stand up."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez.
Read More: Los Angeles Angels, Josh Hamilton