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Declaring himself "one of the best players in the league," Vance Law is ready to prove 1988 was no fluke.

And when he says "I'm hoping things shape up the same way" this year as they did in his best major league season of 1988, he's understating his case a little. The son of former Cy Young winner Vernon Law is doing more than hoping."I gained a lot of confidence from last year," he said. "Sure I had doubts before. Every player does until he has that good, solid season of consistency."

A .253 career hitter who never had driven in 60 runs, Law batted .293 last year for the Chicago Cubs with 11 home runs and 78 RBI, one less than team leader Andre Dawson.

Law came to town from his Provo home recently for the Cubs' midwinter caravan tour and fan convention.

He admits he doesn't have Dawson's power, but he says he would like to spend an entire season hitting in fifth place behind Dawson.

"I'd always been a seventh-place hitter," Law said. "Last year, I was forced into batting sixth and sometimes fifth. Batting fifth and even sixth gives you a better chance to drive in runs, and I believe we're going to score a lot of runs this year."

Law said he doesn't know what Manager Don Zimmer's plans are for the batting order, but he knows he will be a fixture at third base.

"He had an outstanding year, but I don't put numbers on players," Zimmer said. "It would be unfair for me to say he can't do what he did, and it would be unfair for me to say we expect him to do it again. We'll just let him go out there and play."

Law played first, second and third base for the Montreal Expos in 1987 before gaining free agency and signing with the Cubs. He wasted no time in winning the open third-base job, although most of his career with the Pirates, the Chicago White Sox and the Expos was spent at second base.

Law made 19 errors in 402 chances and his .953 fielding percentage was among the better in the league.

"I can play a lot better," Law said. "There were four or five errors I made, and I didn't sleep well those nights. I can remember an easy play against the (New York) Mets, and it cost us some runs. I can eliminate those errors by simple concentration."

At 32, Law feels he is in his prime.

"I've kept myself in better shape than most players," he said. "I take care of my body. I have never had alcohol or tobacco. I don't go out nights. I control myself, and I'm in as good shape as I was when I was a 25-year-old.

"Last year was the first indication I was becoming the player I always thought I could be," said Law.