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Zimmer sits in for Torre

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 1999


TAMPA -- When Don Zimmer broke into professional baseball, he played 71 games for minor-league Cambridge, filling in whenever he was needed.

Fifty years later, Zimmer is filling in again.

Though it's not official, it is implicitly understood around the Yankees camp: Zimmer will run the club while manager Joe Torre is recovering from prostate cancer.

Zimmer, 68, has been the bench coach since being brought to the team three years ago at Torre's request. The two have forged a close relationship.

"Yeah, he's in Hawaii on vacation (earlier this year) and he calls me five times that week just to see what's going on," Zimmer said. "I consider myself very lucky. I went from Social Security to two World Series and a playoffs."

How long Zimmer, who was chosen by Torre and principal owner George Steinbrenner to take over, remains in his position depends upon whether Torre has surgery or uses radiation therapy. Either way, his absence already seems too long for Zimmer.

"I can't wait till he's back," Zimmer said solemnly.

STRAW'S IN: Darryl Strawberry celebrated his 37th birthday Friday by playing designated hitter against the Royals in his second game of the spring.

Strawberry, who cleared a major hurdle in his recovery from colon cancer surgery in October by playing Wednesday, said he is hoping to get some time in leftfield soon.

"I know he was chomping at the bit to play (Thursday)," Zimmer said. "I figured now was a good time to get him four or five at-bats today and probably get four or five more tomorrow."

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