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Joe Torre Diagonosed With Prostate Cancer

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- New York Yankees manager Joe Torre left the World Series champions Wednesday for treatment of prostate cancer, another blow to a team shadowed by death and disease.

Torre discovered he had the cancer from a test the Yankees required at spring training in response to Darryl Strawberry's colon-cancer diagnosis in October. The team believes doctors caught the disease in its early stages.

"I feel fine, and I am looking forward to taking care of this problem and getting back to work," said the 58-year-old manager, who spent the day at his spring home in Tampa.

IT WAS NOT IMMEDIATELY CLEAR how long he will be away from the team, what his course of treatment will be or where he will be treated.

"Joe will handle this situation with the same determination and courage that he has always demonstrated," owner George Steinbrenner said. "Our prayers are with him."

Word of Torre's condition came two days after Yankees great Joe DiMaggio died of complications from lung-cancer surgery and on the same day Strawberry returned to the lineup for the first time in five months.

Just last week, former Yankees star Catfish Hunter appeared at the team's camp too weak to shake hands because of Lou Gehrig's Disease. In 1996, when Torre became the Yankees' manager, his brother Rocco died, and his brother Frank had a heart transplant during the World Series.

Strawberry said the team was "devastated" by the news of Torre.

"No one wants to see someone else face this particular battle," Strawberry said. "It is a difficult battle for anybody. We all have to realize that until there is a cure for cancer, there are no guarantees."

THE YANKEES WILL ROTATE MANAGERS while Torre is out. Hitting coach Chris Chambliss managed the split squad game Wednesday in Fort Myers against the Red Sox and Stump Merrill, a special assistant to general manager Brian Cashman who managed the Yankees in 1990-91, handled the team's other game in Bradenton against the Pirates.

Third-base coach Willie Randolph and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre also will share the managing duties.

Before the Yankees left Tampa Friday morning, Torre called veterans Joe Girardi, Paul O'Neill and David Cone into his office to break the news.

Girardi informed the Yankees who went to Fort Myers in a brief closed-door meeting two hours before the game. O'Neill told the group of players in Bradenton, while Cone told those who stayed in Tampa.

"You want to be upbeat. But it is hard when you see two people in the prime of their lives go through this," Girardi said of Strawberry and Torre. "The best thing we can do for Joe right now is to play the way Joe wants us to play. Joe's going to want to fight this and he's going to want us to fight."

Prostate cancer is second only to lung cancer among cancer killers of American men, taking about 40,000 lives annually.

Most prostate cancer happens sporadically; patients have no particular family history of the disease. However, about 1 in 10 cases seems to be clearly inherited, because many men in the same family have it.

TORRE IS THE THIRD PROMINENT PERSON in baseball to be diagnosed with cancer this spring.

Atlanta first baseman Andres Galarraga was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his lower back and is undergoing chemotherapy. He will miss the entire season.

Florida Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell, a former Yankees prospect, was diagnosed last month with testicular cancer.

Marv Levy, the former coach of the Buffalo Bills, underwent surgery for prostate cancer during the 1995 NFL season and, at 70, was back coaching within a month.

"Joe is taking the correct steps," Levy said. "It is a disease that, when diagnosed early and treated aggressively, is highly curable. My prayers and best wishes for a swift recovery are certainly with Joe Torre."

Torre has a 302-184 record and has won two World Series championships in his first three years as Yankees manager. Last year, Torre led the Yankees to an AL-record 114 victories and swept the San Diego Padres in the World Series.

"HE MEANS EVERYTHING TO OUR CLUB," Tino Martinez said. "He helps keep us together day in and day out. It's just shocking. After what Darryl went through last year, we just have to be ready for something like this."

Torre, who signed a two-year contract extension last month, joined Casey Stengel and Ralph Houk as the only managers to lead the Yankees to the postseason in their first three years at the helm.

The Yankees' trip to the World Series in 1996 was Torre's first as a player or manager after 4,268 games in the majors.

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