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Knoblauch Fumes At Boss

Chuck Knoblauch fired back at Yankees owner George Steinbrenner on Saturday after The Boss once again questioned his second baseman's injured arm.

"If I don't have the throwing problem, no one questions if I'm hurt," Knoblauch said in a profanity-laced interview. "I spent 10 years in the majors and never went on the DL. I go on once and everyone questions if I'm hurt. That's a bunch of bull. I'm not hiding from anything. I'm tired of being questioned. What do I have to hide from?"

Knoblauch, whose season has been plagued by throwing woes and various arm injuries, has been out since Aug. 3 with tendinitis in his right elbow. Steinbrenner hinted for the second time this season that Knoblauch's injury might not be as serious as the second baseman thinks.

"I have no answers about Knoblauch," Steinbrenner said in Saturday's Daily News. "We've had players come down to Tampa all year and had success (getting them healthy or restoring their confidence.) With him, we've failed.

"He's coming back and maybe when he's face to face with his teammates he'll want to get out there. I'm not saying he doesn't have pain. If he says he does, then maybe he does. It's just that our doctors and trainers can't find it."

Steinbrenner also criticized two of his struggling relievers, telling right-hander Jeff Nelson to "Put up or shut up;" and saying at least left-hander Mike Stanton admits how bad he's been.

"I have 29 more days plus the playoffs to put up with this stuff," said Nelson, whose recent feud with manager Joe Torre helped fuel Steinbrenner's remarks. "I have a job to do on the mound and I don't want any distractions. ... But he has the right to say what he wants. He's the owner."

Torre said Steinbrenner's rantings are "part of the package" that comes with working for the sport's biggest spender, as well as meddler.

"It bothers me if it bothers the people involved," said Torre, who himself was recently rebuked by Steinbrenner for questioning the team's acquisition of Jose Canseco. "If they take it into the game, then it bothers me because it affects the way I do my job."

Steinbrenner's outburst comes with the team five games ahead of Boston in the AL East, and even overshadowed Don Mattingly's Old Timers Day debut.

Knoblauch spent the past few weeks at the team's minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., rehabbing his elbow. Steinbrenner abruptly ordered him back to New York on Friday, even though Knoblauch isn't quite ready to return to the field.

Knoblauch said he spoke to Steinbrenner a few times in Tampa and the owner apeared supportive. That's what made the latest criticism so frustrating.

"He had plenty of opportunity to tell me that when I was there and it never came across that way," Knoblauch said.

"People obviously don't know me well enough around here," he said. "They don't know what I'm made of. I don't need motivation or pep talks."

Torre took his player's side, saying only Knoblauch knows how much he is hurting.

"That's unfortunate," he said. "I find it hard to judge if someone is hurt unless you are in that body. I believe Knobby because I want to believe him."

While Knoblauch was the most offended by Steinbrenner's remarks, the owner was most upset with Nelson and Stanton, two of the key cogs in the Yankees' consecutive World Series titles. Both have struggled of late.

"I'm not as diplomatic as Joe Torre is with the players," Steinbrenner said. "If we get to the playoffs, we are not going to go far if these two guys don't get straightened out."

Nelson, who is eligible for free agency after this season, said Steinbrenner's comments wouldn't necessarily affect his decision on where to play next season.

"I'm not worried about my status for next year," he said. "I want to help this team win the World Series. I have to worry about September and October, not 2001."

Stanton, who did not see the article, didn't take offense either.

"If he says I've stunk and haven't done the job, he's right," Stanton said.

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