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Yanks replacements rewarded

Three Yankees replacement players each will receive $25,000 and World Series rings, though the team's regular players who had been on strike opposed the idea.

The three are being rewarded by owner George Steinbrenner at the urging of general manager Bob Watson, the Record

of Hackensack reported.

Watson said it was "an injustice" to deny Dale Polley, Dave Pavlas and Matt Howard a part of the World Series jackpot the Yankees received for winning.

The three also will participate in the ring ceremony at Yankee Stadium next month.

"It's our way of correcting something that was very wrong," Watson said.

The three were among those who played in exhibition games in spring 1995, when the major-league players were on strike. All replacement players were released that April 1, the day before the season began, but Polley, Pavlas and Howard were re-signed and were with New York last season.

Yankees players, after a bitter debate last fall, excluded the three when World Series shares were voted.

Polley told the Record

that Steinbrenner's decision "closes the issue once and for all. At least I hope so."

The club had been divided on whether the replacement players should get rewarded for the team's World Series victory. Union loyalists David Cone and Jim Leyritz were against giving the replacement players anything.

Manager Joe Torre has said he was opposed to the union's position.

IRABU AT HOME: Back in Japan, Hideki Irabu said he still hopes to play for the Yankees. He also said he is considering pitching for an independent league and would meet with Japanese officials to discuss reports they might suspend him for doing that.

The national newspaper Asahi Shimbun

reported that if Irabu plays for one more year with the Chiba Lotte Marines, he might be eligible for free agency at the end of the season.

LABOR PAYMENT: Owners gave $11.3-million to the union's benefit plan and sent checks of up to $13,666.67 to players who were in the majors last year as the new labor agreement took effect. The payments were called for in a strike settlement.