What happens when a player asks to be traded by a team that hasn't been able to trade him? That's Mariano Duncan's situation. He lost his second base job with the New York Yankees and has been in principal owner George Steinbrenner's doghouse since spring training.
Nothing happens, unless the Yankees find a taker for Duncan, a major part of the Yankees' World Series champion team in 1996. The best thing Duncan, 34, did as a second baseman last year was hit .340. Never a Gold Glove candidate, he has fielded adequately, but his hitting made up for his defense. But Duncan's .266 average this year has made it difficult to overlook his limited range. And with sure-handed Luis Sojo batting .293, Yankees manager Joe Torre has had no choice but to play Sojo, 31.
It was Steinbrenner's public remarks that Duncan is nothing more than "a backup outfielder," that has him asking out. Duncan says activating second baseman Pat Kelly when left fielder Tim Raines was placed on the 15-day disabled list was Steinbrenner's way of getting back at Duncan.
"See if they can ship me somewhere else," Duncan said yesterday "It's hard being someplace where no one wants you. If he wants to blame me for everything, I can take it. He can go find a Gold Glover somewhere and pay him $5 million. Every year, someone is the victim. This year, I am the victim. I have no problem with Joe. I respect what Joe says, but the owner has been doing this stuff for years."
Said General manager Bob Watson: "This is about a contract extension. It's all about money."
Steinbrenner has been upset with Duncan since the infielder, who is in the second and final year of a contract that pays him $750,000, told reporters in spring training the owner reneged on a promise of an extension. At that point, Steinbrenner told Watson to shop Duncan. Steinbrenner reportedly tried to get the San Diego Padres to accept Duncan as part of the package for Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu.
"Obviously, you don't want unrest in your clubhouse," Torre said. "I've talked to Dunc. He has been in baseball long enough to know some things are out of your control."
NOTES: Disabled reliever Brian Boehringer will have surgery tomorrow at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center to remove bone chips from his right elbow. Pitcher Dwight Gooden will make at least one more injury-rehabilitation start for Triple-A Columbus Sunday against Toledo. Gooden gave up one unearned run and two hits in five innings Tuesday night against Charlotte. Minor league pitching instructor Greg Pavlik said he lacked velocity. Outfielder Darryl Strawberry (cartilage damage in knee) will go on an injury-rehab assignment to Double A Norwich later in the week. The Yankees sold the contract of Columbus right-hander Dave Pavlas, 33, to the Yomiuri Giants.
Pub Date: 6/05/97