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 Thursday, March 2
Banned Strawberry tries drug rehab again
Associated Press

  TAMPA, Fla. -- For the third time in 10 years, Darryl Strawberry is taking a side trip to a treatment center, hoping he can get help for the cocaine problem that ended his season before it ever began.

The New York Yankees slugger disclosed his plans Wednesday, two days after commissioner Bud Selig suspended him for one year.

"By the time you read this statement, I will have checked myself into a drug rehabilitation clinic, where I intend to be for the foreseeable future," Strawberry said in a release faxed to the team's spring training office by his agent.

"My goal is to take control of my drug addiction once and for all, and I believe this step is required in order to do so," Strawberry said.

It was his first comment since the penalty, the third drug-related suspension of Strawberry's career. Selig did not make any provision for the troubled star to return early for good behavior.

The statement, sent by agent Eric Grossman, did not detail where Strawberry is having treatment.

A baseball source, speaking on the condition he not be identified, said the center is in south Florida, and New York newspapers identified it as the Hanley-Hazeldon clinic in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Strawberry thanked his teammates, manager Joe Torre, owner George Steinbrenner, the entire Yankees organization and his doctors for support and "a bedrock of love, understanding and hope beyond which I could have never imagined."

"I also want to say to the fans everywhere, many of whom I certainly understand are disappointed and perhaps even angry at me, I will work everyday of my life to restore the belief you have had in me," he said.

Steinbrenner has been one of Strawberry's biggest backers. Asked if he wanted to comment, Steinbrenner said no.

In 1990, Strawberry entered the Smithers Center in New York for alcohol rehabilitation. And in 1994, he spent 28 days at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for treatment of a substance abuse problem.

Strawberry's latest suspension has been the talk all week at Yankees' camp.

Early in the morning, on his first day at a spring training instructor, former Yankees captain Don Mattingly spoke of Strawberry's problems.

"Once I get past the general feelings at first -- how could he do it? Why did he do it? -- you think about the person," Mattingly said. "Darryl is a great person."

David Cone, perhaps the Yankees player closest to Strawberry, voiced the same feeling on Tuesday.

"I'm extremely depressed," the pitcher said. "It's tough watching close friends stumble again. Because he's suspended and won't be a Yankee this year doesn't affect our friendship. I'm sure everybody in here feels the same."

While they hope he can come back next year, his teammates know there's a chance the eight-time All-Star -- who turns 38 in two weeks -- might be done in baseball.

"I just don't know at his age," first baseman Tino Martinez said. "I think this was going to be his last year anyway. I think it would be hard to miss the whole year and come back."

The two-time World Series champions hoped Strawberry would be their main designated hitter this season at a salary of $750,000. He is a career .259 hitter with 335 home runs and 1,000 RBI.

Last week, it was revealed Strawberry had failed a cocaine test in January. A day later, baseball ordered him off the practice field.

Strawberry has not been at camp since that morning.

While banned from the majors and all affiliated minor league teams, Strawberry could play for a club in an independent league. He did that in 1996 with the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League.

The Newark Bears, owned by former Yankees catcher Rick Cerone, and the Atlantic City Surf of the Atlantic League want him. So do the New Jersey Jackals of the Northern League.

The Solano Steelheads in Vacaville, Calif., a team in the independent Western Baseball League, also offered Strawberry a contract.

"Perhaps a change to the West Coast would help overall. Should he decide to sign with us, it may serve two purposes: keeping his playing skills fine-tuned and an overall change of scenery," team owner Bruce Portner said.

Off Base: Goodbye, Darryl

Last straw? Selig suspends Yankees' Strawberry for year

Teammates unsure about Strawberry's future but remain supportive

Strawberry's troubles sadden Gooden

Darryl Strawberry chronology

Baseball drug suspensions

 Joe Torre says he wanted closure.
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