This should work on anything that is EL5 (CentOS5, RHEL5, etc) or newer. The package may be on older versions but I haven't checked. The
mt-st package for checking tape drive device status is very small and in the
base repository like you are requesting.
[root@testbox ~]# yum info mt-st
Name : mt-st
Arch : x86_64
Version : 1.1
Release : 5.el6
Size : 41 k
Repo : base
Summary : Tool for controlling tape drives
URL : ftp://ftp.ibiblio.org/pub/linux/system/backup
License : GPL+
Description : The mt-st package contains the mt and st tape drive management
: programs. Mt (for magnetic tape drives) and st (for SCSI tape devices)
: can control rewinding, ejecting, skipping files and blocks and more.
: Install mt-st if you need a tool to manage tape drives.
Its dependencies are only things that you would be hard-pressed to live without:
[root@testbox~]# repoquery --requires --recursive mt-st
[root@testbox~]# repoquery --requires --resolve --recursive mt-st