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Phillies’ Dykstra Says He’s Done

June 10, 1998

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Lenny Dykstra, citing the back problems that have kept him out of the lineup for the last 1- 1/2 years, said Tuesday he won’t play baseball again.

``I’m done,″ Dykstra said during an interview on ESPN. ``I can’t play again. I’m not physically able to play again.″

Dykstra stopped short of declaring he is retired, saying that such an announcement would probably follow the season. An earlier announcement would void the $5.5 million contract he has this year. The Phillies will recoup all but $900,000 of Dykstra’s salary this year through an insurance policy.

Dykstra, 35, had been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a congenital condition that narrows the opening where nerves go through the spinal canal, causing pain when the nerves rub against the passageway.

He had surgery to help fix the condition in July 1996 and after an arduous rehabilitation, attempted a comeback this spring. On March 17, Dykstra, who had only two hits in 21 at-bats (.095) this spring, announced that the pain in his back had returned and that he was putting his comeback on hold.

Nine days later, Dr. Robert Watkins, one of the country’s leading back specialists, told Dykstra he would be risking serious physical disability if he continued to play.

``I think all the years of grinding it out and just playing the game the way its supposed to be played has taken its toll,″ said Dykstra, whose playing style earned him the nickname ``Nails.″

``I probably could have faked them out this year and suffered and been a part-time player, a pinch hitter, and that’s not how I want people to remember Lenny Dykstra,″ he said.

Dykstra has a career batting average of .285 in 12 major-league seasons with the Mets and Phillies. He was the colorful leadoff hitter on the Phillies team that shocked baseball by going from last place in 1992 to winning the NL pennant in 1993.

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