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Yanks Hopeful For Torre's Return

The New York Yankees were left reeling Thursday, just one day after learning that their manager, Joe Torre, had prostate cancer and had to leave the team to receive treatment.

The team believes doctors caught the disease in its early stages. Owner George Steinbrenner said Wednesday's test results are encouraging and that Torre could be back in three weeks — in time for the season opener April 5.

"I feel fine," the 58-year-old manager said Wednesday, "and I am looking forward to taking care of this problem and getting back to work."

The Yankees will rotate managers while Torre is out. Hitting coach Chris Chambliss managed the split squad game Wednesday in Fort Myers against the Red Sox, and Stump Merrill, who managed the Yankees in 1990-91 and is now a special assistant to general manager Brian Cashman, handled the team's game in Bradenton against the Pirates.

Third-base coach Willie Randolph and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre also will share the managing duties.

Torre, who led the Yankees to a record 125 victories last season, will undergo treatment at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

"Joe will handle this situation with the same determination and courage that he has always demonstrated. Our prayers are with him," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said.

Word of Torre's condition came two days after Yankees great Joe DiMaggio died of complications from lung-cancer surgery and on the same day Darryl Strawberry was to make his return from colon cancer surgery in October. Strawberry was in the Yankees' lineup today for a split-squad game with Boston.

And it was just last week that former Yankees star Catfish Hunter appeared at the team's camp, too weak to shake hands because of Lou Gehrig's Disease.

"It is a very hard day for all of us," Strawberry said. "We as a team are devastated. Like when it happened with me, we as a team will stick together."

Torre told catcher Joe Girardi before the Yankee split squad left Tampa this morning. Girardi told the rest of the team before the two-hour bus ride.

"The guys were very sad," Girardi said. "It is hard when it hits so close to you. Joe was upbeat. He's a fighter and he will make it through this."

Prostate cancer is second only to lung cancer among cancer killers of American men, taking about 40,000 lives annually.

Most prostate cancer happens sporadically; patients have no particular family history of the disease. However, about 1 in 10 cases seems to be clearly inherited, because many men in the same family have it.

Torre is the third prominent person in baseball to be diagnosed with cancer this spring. Atlanta Braves first baseman Andres Galarraga had a cancerous tumor removed from his back last month and will miss the entire season.

Florida Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell, a former Yankees prospect, was diagnosed lasmonth with testicular cancer.

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