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STRAWBERRY WAS FORGOTTEN; NOW HE’S GONE

SHARE STRAWBERRY WAS FORGOTTEN; NOW HE’S GONE

It's official: Darryl Strawberry is gone. He was forgotten as a player quite some time ago by many of his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates.

"The last two years, it's been, `Gosh, we've got to get him back,' " center fielder Brett Butler said Wednesday after learning Strawberry's career with the Dodgers is finished. "We haven't even thought about him coming back this year; nobody's talked about him.""You can't change what's happened with him, but we've got a good thing going here," pitcher Kevin Gross said.

Plagued by back ailments the last two years, Strawberry has not played since he admitted on April 4 - the day before the Dodgers opened the season - that he had a substance abuse problem. He is in an after-care program following a four-week stay at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

What's next for the 32-year-old outfielder is unclear, although his lawyer said during a Dodger Stadium news conference that his client will play baseball again.

The Dodgers said they reached a settlement with Strawberry, who was to be paid $3 million this year and $5 million in 1995 to finish out the five-year, $20.25 million contract he signed Nov. 8, 1990. The team would not disclose settlement terms.

As part of the agreement, worked out by Strawberry, the Dodgers, the Player Relations Committee and the Players Association, the Dodgers will request waivers on Strawberry's contract for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release. If he clears waivers, he will become an unrestricted free agent.

"There is no question that this is the appropriate resolution," Strawberry's lawyer, Robert Shapiro, said. "I would say that it's highly unlikely he'll play again this season. I believe at the beginning of the 1995 season, Darryl will be a member of a major league team, and be one of the most productive players in the game.

"He is in exemplary physical condition. He is now working on his mental and emotional condition. Baseball is in his future, but his rehabilitation comes first."

Despite Strawberry's sudden departure on the eve of the season, the Dodgers lead the NL West thanks mainly to one of baseball's most productive offenses.

The excellent work of Henry Rodriguez and Cory Snyder, who have platooned in left field, have made Strawberry's absence easier to take.