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Strawberry back where it all began

Strawberry returns to club where it all began

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.-- The still-strapping figure gave a number of people in the Mets' organization the same idea: Darryl Strawberry still could play. And in this Mets camp, with every other player limping, sore or in some way incapacitated, Strawberry could play right field and hit fourth.

"We may have to suit him up," manager Willie Randolph said. "He looks like he could still hit a hanging slider."

Alas, the best player this franchise developed is 46, and his left-handed swing is used for golf now -- even if he does playfully boast a 35-home run, 110-RBI season still is possible.

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No matter what he says, Strawberry is back in the Mets' full-time employ for the first time since he bolted as a free agent following the 1990 season. His appointment as a Spring Training instructor, spokesman for the club's outreach program and occasional Minor League observer was announced Monday.

Strawberry, who was to have been hired last year, was in uniform for the Mets' afternoon game against the Braves. His presence prompted smiles among those in camp who knew him then and long stares for younger players who knew the name, if not the face, and his history. His charisma is at least undiminished and perhaps even greater than it was when he was the focal point of the Mets' batting order.

"As a homegrown Met," he said, "it's good to be back."

General manager Omar Minaya discussed bringing back Strawberry with the club ownership shortly after he assumed the position in 2004.

Minaya said Monday "there were certain matters that Darryl had to take care of" before he became a full-time employee. Strawberry had participated in other Spring Training camps during Minaya's tenure.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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