Much of last year, but especially in the final few weeks of the season and during the playoffs, Yoenis Céspedes was playing with a large weight on his shoulders.

Off the field, he looked troubled. He did not address the media for several weeks - "too upset," one person close to him said - and he sat slumped at his locker after games.

Céspedes' worries stemmed from his legal issues, involving money that a former agent claims he is owed. Céspedes became increasingly concerned about the legal standing, and more important, the safety of his family members in the Dominican Republic, including his mother, aunt and three cousins. Like him, all are Cuban defectors, and he hopes to bring them to the United States at some point.

"I wasn't that worried about me, but I was very concerned about my family in the Dominican," Céspedes told The Chronicle on Sunday. "I was worried a lot about them being there in that country.

"Once this situation is resolved, I will feel a lot better. I will play a lot better."

Next month, Céspedes will have a hearing in the Dominican to resolve his legal dispute with former agent Edgar Mercedes, who helped Céspedes and his family get established after their flight from Cuba. Céspedes said that Mercedes no longer is affiliated with him; Mercedes has claimed that Céspedes owes him 17 percent of his contract, including last year's $5 million signing bonus, for services rendered in the Dominican.

Céspedes is in much better spirits now - for one thing, his mother now resides in the Turks and Caicos Islands. And Céspedes is particularly encouraged by a recent change in Cuban law that will allow citizens who leave the island to return. He hopes that will allow his 3-year-old son, Yoenis Jr., to visit; Céspedes speaks to his son by phone often, but he has not seen him since fleeing Cuba.

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