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MATTINGLY’S BAD BACK MAY END HIS SEASON

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Don Mattingly has been given three weeks off to rest his ailing back. As far as New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is concerned, the first baseman can have the rest of the season, too.

"If he's out the rest of the season, it's not going to make a difference," Steinbrenner said. "I told him he had no choice; it was my order. With Don Mattingly, his health and everything else is ahead of baseball."Steinbrenner said he's concerned that Mattingly's back may be further injured if he continues to play.

"I don't want (him) walking around a cripple when (he's) 50 years old," Steinbrenner said.

The Yankees put Mattingly on the 21-day disabled list Friday because of back problems. He's batting just .245, far below his .323 career average, with five home runs and 35 RBIs. He averaged 27 home runs and 114 RBIs in the previous six seasons.

The 29-year-old Mattingly has been bothered by back problems all season. He said his back tightened up again Tuesday night, keeping him out of Wednesday night's 9-7 loss in 11 innings to Texas, the game in which Nolan Ryan failed to get his 300th victory.