TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ A baseball player's locker is a sacred place _ the one private place in his very public world. Ruben Rivera learned that invading that sanctum is a most serious offense.
Once one of the most promising prospects in baseball, Rivera was taken off the roster by the New York Yankees after stealing a bat and glove from teammate Derek Jeter's locker, a baseball source said Tuesday. If he is not claimed by another team within two days, he will be dropped from the Yankees.
``That type of thing is a shock,'' manager Joe Torre said. ``It's sad. It's unfortunate.''
While many off-the-field transgressions in baseball are overlooked, Rivera was not given a second chance by the Yankees.
``We look at this as our house and this is our family,'' reliever Mike Stanton said. ``We spend more time here than we do with our real families. This was something that had to be dealt with quickly and as discreetly as possible, but that's not possible in this age.''
None of the Yankees players or officials would publicly say why Rivera was let go. But a baseball lawyer familiar with the decision, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Rivera took the equipment from Jeter's locker and sold it to a sports memorabilia agent.
Rivera later returned the glove and bat, which he reportedly sold for $2,500, but it was too late to save his career with the Yankees.
``The clubhouse is a special place,'' Torre said. ``It's our sanctuary. It's big part of what we do. Trust is very important.''
Rivera signed a $1 million, one-year guaranteed contract with the Yankees last month, but the team negotiated a $200,000 settlement Monday, the lawyer said.
Jeter declined to comment on the theft or the release, saying he didn't ``want to add fuel to the fire.''
Rivera was unavailable for comment.
Jeter and Rivera were teammates in a rookie league 10 years ago and played together at stops on the way to the majors. Their lockers were about 30 feet apart.
The 28-year-old outfielder originally was signed by the Yankees as free agent in 1990 and became the team's top prospect. He was traded to the San Diego Padres in 1997.
He has struggled to stay in the majors, hitting .218 with 58 homers and 185 RBIs in 562 games.
The Yankees hoped Rivera was on the way to fulfilling his potential this spring as he batted .350 in eight games in his bid to make the team as a backup outfielder.