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Yanks' Tartabull denies he would've crossed line


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Danny Tartabull has survived three years of potential turmoil with the New York Yankees without his placid nature becoming the least bit disturbed.

There was the night at Camden Yards in September 1992 when he had nine RBI in a blowout of the Orioles and declined a chance at breaking or tying the major-league record of 12 RBIs in a game by allowing manager Buck Showalter to remove him from the lineup in the late innings as the game got out of hand.

There was the night in Milwaukee in September 1993 when the Yankees were trying to stay in the American League East race with Toronto and owner George Steinbrenner suggested Tartabull needed to assert himself more and not be so quick to come out of the lineup because of minor injuries, a charge the outfielder-DH has faced most of his 11 seasons in the majors.

There was another night in Baltimore in June 1994 when Tartabull, in a slump, was benched one game by Showalter and the next night was removed from the cleanup spot.

To all of this and more, Tartabull's response has been nothing greater than mild annoyance. Nothing appears to rattle Tartabull, who is entering the fourth year of his five-year, $25.5 million contract, which is why it came as no surprise that he shrugged off published accounts that he might have crossed the picket line if the strike had not ended March 31.

"If there was any kind of truth to it, then it would have bothered me," Tartabull said yesterday. "To take something out of the air, out of the wild, blue yonder, that's just bad journalism."

A columnist for a New York tabloid listed Tartabull first on a list of the 10 likeliest major leaguers to cross if the strike persisted. Even the Phillies' Lenny Dykstra, who admitted to considering breaking rank with the Major League Players Association, was placed below Tartabull on the writer's list.

As usual, Tartabull kept a low profile in the off-season and reserved his comments until he arrived in camp Friday. Back in February, Jose Tartabull, a former major league outfielder and now a Royals coach, was here for a charity game and acknowledged his son and he discussed the labor situation but gave no indication Danny was thinking about strikebreaking.

"My baseball value is too great to worry about that," Tartabull said. "I have been around the major leagues since I was 5 years old. My dad played ball. I know the ethics of ballplayers. I talked to my dad during the strike. He stood behind me 100 percent, just like I stood behind the strike."

Tartabull had 19 home runs and 67 RBIs while batting .256 in 104 games last year. In three seasons with the Yankees, he has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBI and a .257 average. The latter figure is 21 points below his career mark. The strenuous, off-season program was designed to improve those numbers.

"Anyone who gets complacent in this game is crazy," Tartabull said. "You should want to improve on everything."

Tartabull also sees the Yankees improving as a team, with the additions of pitchers Jack McDowell and John Wetteland and shortstop Tony Fernandez.

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