Nearly 14 years after his sweet swing sent mammoth home runs over the Shea Stadium fences for the Mets, Darryl Strawberry decided he had been away for too long.

"It's nice to come back to a place where I first started," Strawberry said yesterday before the Mets played the Phillies. "There's a lot of memories for me here."

Strawberry participated in a meet-and-greet session with fans, along with former Mets Lenny Dykstra, Keith Hernandez, Bud Harrelson, Jerry Grote and Ed Kranepool -- his first appearance at a team function since signing with the Dodgers as a free agent after the 1990 season.

He had been asked to take part in Mets alumni events in previous years, but declined.

"It just wasn't the time," he said.

* PEREZ OFF DL: Odalis Perez came off the disabled list to start for the Dodgers against the Diamondbacks.

Perez (4-3) had not pitched since June 26, when he got a no-decision after giving up three hits and three runs in five innings of a 7-5 loss to the Angels.

Dodgers Manager Jim Tracy said the left-hander would not be on a strict pitch count.

"He will not be on a short leash, but we will keep an eye on him, definitely," Tracy said.

* LINCOLN IS OUT: Cardinals P Mike Lincoln will miss the rest of the season after having elbow ligament replacement surgery.

-- From News Services