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Strawberry says his colon cancer is back

Suspended Yankee contests reports of drinking, says health and family are his main concerns.

By Compiled from Times staff writers and Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000

TAMPA -- Darryl Strawberry says his colon cancer has returned, adding to the string of misfortunes and legal problems besetting the suspended New York Yankee.

As he answered reporters' questions Friday about his probation, Strawberry said his first priority would be to deal with health issues.

"Physically, I have some situations coming up right now that's going to be real difficult for me," he said, without elaborating. "So I have to deal with them at this point."

Asked if his cancer had returned, the eight-time All-Star replied "Yes," and walked away.

Strawberry's agent, Eric Grossman, said a CT scan suggests the cancer has spread to lymph nodes near the original tumor and Strawberry will have more tests next week.

"I have a wonderful family and a beautiful new baby that I look forward to watching grow up, and I intend to do whatever it takes to tackle this problem so that I can enjoy the rest of my life with them," Strawberry, 38, said in a statement Grossman released.

Strawberry was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1998 and had surgery and chemotherapy. In January, he said a test showed his colon was free of cancer.

Before the Yankees' game at Minnesota, manager Joe Torre told a hushed clubhouse the news.

"I'm sick to my stomach. You know it's always there, that danger or potential of (cancer) coming back. It's just very sad," said Torre, who battled prostate cancer. "Thank God there's just so many other ways to treat cancers today."

Said shortstop Derek Jeter: "Everyone's shocked again. It's just unfortunate. Hopefully, everything will be all right.

"He's had a streak of misfortunes. ... Just when you think you've gotten over cancer, and it comes right back."

In Tampa, Strawberry would not comment to reporters on the possibility he violated the terms of his probation on April 1999 charges of possessing cocaine and soliciting a prostitute.

Strawberry met with his probation officer and said he visited a South Florida club that allows visitors to bring alcohol, said Joe Papy, regional director for the Florida Department of Corrections.

Strawberry said he spent 15 minutes at the club for a bachelor party and did not drink alcohol, Papy said. His office will investigate conflicting stories and report to a judge in the next two weeks to determine if Strawberry violated terms of his 18-month probation.

"We're checking out his stories," Papy said.

Strawberry has passed every drug test administered since testing positive for cocaine Jan. 19, including drug screens Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Papy said.

He said Strawberry appeared to be forthright with his answers and provided names of people who could corroborate his story. The next step is to contact those people.

While still undergoing chemotherapy, Strawberry returned to baseball in March 1999. A month later, he was charged with possessing cocaine and soliciting a prostitute. Pleading no contest, Strawberry was sentenced to 18 months' probation and 100 hours of community service.

Strawberry also was questioned about a Sports Illustrated report that he joined a swingers club last month and has been seen there on several occasions. The magazine also ran a photograph of Strawberry posing with a woman identified as a member of the club.

As part of his probation, Strawberry was ordered not to use drugs or frequent establishments where the main source of income is alcohol.

Trapeze II, the club Sports Illustrated said the eight-time All-Star joined last month, is a Fort Lauderdale establishment in which alcohol reportedly is not sold. Patrons may bring their own.

Strawberry wrote a letter to commissioner Bud Selig several weeks ago asking that the third drug-related suspension of his career end early, the Associated Press reported.

The one-year ban is scheduled to run through February. Selig's original ruling made no provisions for an early return for good behavior.

- Staff writers Joe Humphrey and Mike Readling contributed to this report.

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