ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Darryl Strawberry, who overcame a drug problem and a shattered career to find success and happiness with the New York Yankees, was diagnosed Thursday with a cancerous tumor in his colon.
The 36-year-old outfielder will have surgery as early as Saturday.
“Because of the location of the tumor and Darryl’s otherwise excellent health, the prognosis for a full recovery is excellent,” Yankees spokesman Rick Cerrone said.
Strawberry learned Wednesday the stomach pain he’d been experiencing for more than month was likely related to something tests discovered in his colon. He visited the clubhouse briefly before the Yankees beat the Texas Rangers to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series, but left before the game.
As the team flew to Texas, Strawberry remained in New York to undergo a colonoscopy at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. After getting the bad news, he telephoned the clubhouse at The Ballpark in Arlington.
“He said he’d be fine, that he wants us to go out and win this thing,” said pitcher Andy Pettitte, who took the call.
Strawberry then spoke with manager Joe Torre, who broke the news to the players during a clubhouse meeting before practice.
“There was complete silence, some sobbing, very sad people,” Torre said.
Strawberry also spoke Thursday with childhood friend Eric Davis, who returned from colon cancer surgery in 1997 to lead Baltimore to the AL playoffs.
“He’s upbeat about it and ready for the challenges that he’s going to have,” Davis said.
Strawberry mentioned his stomach pain to Davis when the Yankees and Orioles played last month. After Davis said that was his first symptom, Strawberry realized he needed medical help.
“He sort of put two and two together,” said Davis, adding the early detection will help Strawberry.
“From what he told me it wasn’t in his lymph nodes and it wasn’t in his blood. I think his surgery will be a success like mine was.”
Davis told Strawberry he would be a phone call away if he wants company at the hospital. Strawberry told Davis he’d probably be there for two to three weeks.
Davis said Strawberry’s mental state will be key to his recovery.
“It’s just a gradual process,” Davis said. “It’s not something you do overnight, not something you do in one conversation. It’s a gradual process and I’m going to be there for him every step of the way.”
The Yankees are becoming veterans at dealing with tragedy in the postseason. During their 1996 World Series championship run, Torre’s brother, Frank, was at the same hospital for a heart transplant.
Earlier that year, the team also saw pitcher David Cone had surgery to remove an career-threatening aneurysm from his right arm.
“We’re all very worried, very concerned, but we’re also all optimistic that he can beat this,” said Cone, speaking with reddened eyes.