Originally created 08/05/99

Strawberry ready to move forward



COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Before Darryl Strawberry headed back to the minors he got a pointed message from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

"He told me 'Don't screw up again,"' Strawberry said. "I said, 'I won't."'

Strawberry, attempting to come back from his latest drug suspension -- while still recovering from colon cancer surgery -- has been given another chance by Yankees management to return to The Bronx if he can turn his life around.

In a news conference before suiting up for the Yankees' Triple-A team in Columbus on Wednesday night, Strawberry said he doesn't plan to let this opportunity slip by, then admitted this will be his final comeback.

"I'll tell you right now, if I have to go through this again, I'll never return to baseball. ... The most important thing is that I care about me instead of putting pressure on myself to prove myself," he said.

"I know the most important thing for right now is to deal with my addiction and recovery."

Strawberry was suspended 120 days by commissioner Bud Selig after his arrest on solicitation and drug charges April 14. Selig reduced the suspension was reduced by one week on Monday.

Strawberry said he was going through a tough time when he was arrested, depressed about not making the Yankees' Opening Day roster, and he had stopped going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

He said he became overwhelmed with trying to get in shape to play baseball, finish up six months of chemotherapy and stay on top of his rehab.

"Anyone that suffers through cancer and has to take chemotherapy for six months, somewhere down the line there's going to be a wall hit," he said.

"I really wish I would have paid more attention to my health than concerning myself with getting back on the baseball field. My life is more important than getting back on the baseball field.

"I feel bad that I let down first of all my wife and my two children, but also myself and Mr. Steinbrenner and the entire New York Yankees," Strawberry said.

Strawberry's suspension was in the starting lineup in Columbus Wednesday to play for the first time since learning he had colon cancer last Oct. 1.

Clippers' manager Trey Hillman had Strawberry batting cleanup at designated hitter, but said he could play left field Thursday depending on how he feels.

"I don't want to do something that will set him back two or three days," Hillman said. "He hasn't done this since April. There's going to be a little doubt how his body will recover. We're not sure."

Where Strawberry plays once he gets back to New York remains undecided. An injured left knee will make it tough for him to play left field regularly, and Chili Davis is firmly entrenched at designated hitter.

But there's no doubt the Yankees could use his bat. Strawberry hit 24 homers in 295 at-bats last year before being diagnosed with colon cancer. The Yankees current left-field platoon of Shane Spencer, Ricky Ledee and Chad Curtis has 14 homers in 384 at-bats heading into Wednesday's game with Toronto.

Strawberry previously played with Columbus in 1995 after signing as a free agent, in 1996 after he left the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League, and on an injury rehabilitation in 1997.