Strawberry may try to play this year Improvement in back postpones surgery


LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Darryl Strawberry, never afraid to admit how much he feared a back operation, has persuaded doctors to postpone surgery while he attempts a September comeback.

That's September 1992.

It's been a little more than two weeks since the team announced an operation would be necessary for Strawberry, who is suffering from a herniated disk.

But 16 days after that diagnosis, Dr. Robert Watkins said yesterday that there is little evidence of the back problem that has plagued Strawberry's season.

"The disk is still herniated," Watkins said. "But you have to understand: Lesions heal, and you can have a herniation that heals and you can get totally well."

Frank Jobe, the team's physician, agreed that there was no harm in allowing Strawberry to try to come back.

"He's as well as he can get by any examination that we know how to do," Jobe said. "The time has come where he has to resume his life. If he does that, and he gets more symptoms, then we can change our course."

Watkins said only 25 percent of patients with Strawberry's condition require surgery. It appeared Strawberry was in that minority.

The larger question is: what if Strawberry's comeback fails? Where does that leave the outfielder for the 1993 season, the third of a five-year, $20.25 million contract?

Watkins said delaying the operation approximately one month, should the comeback fail, would not affect Strawberry's return for 1993.

"If he has problems and has to face surgery in September, something like that, there should be adequate time for a rehabilitation program that would allow him to return to full function next season," Watkins said.

Only two days ago, a tentative date of Aug. 21 or Aug. 22 had been set for an operation.

Why the change? Well, it's clear that Strawberry has wanted to avoid surgery at all cost. There is nothing in a player's contract that can force him to undergo an operation.

Watkins and Jobe apparently are willing to allow Strawberry a last chance to prove he can rehabilitate the injury with therapy.

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