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Strawberry Enters Drug Rehab

Darryl Strawberry has entered a drug rehabilitation center, the suspended New York Yankees slugger said Wedndesday in a statement.

Strawberry was banned for one year on Monday following his third strike for cocaine use.

"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," read the release faxed to the Yankees' spring training office by Strawberry's agent.

It was Strawberry's first comment since commissioner Bud Selig issued the penalty. The statement, released by agent Eric Grossman, did not detail where Strawberry is seeking treatment.

"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.

Strawberry thanked his teammates, manager Joe Torre, owner George Steinbrenner and the entire Yankees organization for its support.

"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.

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

Strawberry's third drug-related suspension has been the talk all week at Yankees' camp. Selig imposed the ban and did not make any provision for the troubled star to return early for good behavior.

Earlier 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 Strawberry 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."

Martinez said h thought Strawberry would be "intrigued" by a future opportunity to work with one the Yankees' two minor league teams based in Tampa.

Strawberry had been expected to be the primary designated hitter for the two-time World Series champions this season at a salary of $750,000. He is a career .259 hitter with 335 home runs and 1,000 RBIs.

If Strawberry wants to, he could play with the independent Northern League or with the Newark Bears in the Atlantic League, a team owned by former Yankees catcher Rick Cerone.

"If he wants to play somewhere, we want to have him," Bears spokesman Dave Popkin said.

The Atlantic City Surf of the Atlantic League also want him, as 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.

The Steelheads, who played in Sacramento last season, hired Pete Rose as a spring training hitting instructor last year. Rose is banned from organized baseball for life.

©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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