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Sosa Says He's Ready to Go

MESA, Ariz. (AP) _ One spring training workout, and Sammy Sosa is ready to play ball.

``It doesn't take long for me to hit. I'm not the type of player who takes three or four weeks to get ready, I'm ready to go right now,'' Sosa said after reporting to spring training on Monday.

He was several days later than most of his Chicago Cubs teammates, but one day ahead of the mandatory reporting date.

In his first batting practice session of the spring, a muscular Sosa looked in midseason form, sending 11 homers, to the delight of souvenir-chasing fans in a parking lot across the street.

Sosa admitted carrying a couple of extra pounds with him to spring training.

``I feel great, I feel really healthy and I'm in shape. I'm strong, I'm not fat,'' he said.

Strong enough to challenge Barry Bonds' home run record of 73 set last season?

``I have a lot of potential to do it, but right now I'm not thinking about it. I'm thinking we have a great team. I'm not a selfish player and swinging every at-bat for a home run,'' Sosa said.

Sosa arrived Monday with typical fanfare and TV cameras rolling.

``Good morning America. I'm in the house,'' Sosa said as he greeted his teammates.

Sosa shook hands and exchanged hugs, laughing all the way. Minutes later, the boom box in front of his locker was sending loud, pulsating music across the clubhouse.

After greeting new teammate Moises Alou, whom he helped recruit, and giving another hug to manager Don Baylor, Sosa pulled on his uniform and began testing a new bat in front of his locker, which is next to Alou's.

``Moises is a friend of mine. We played together a long time ago in the Dominican Republic in winter ball. Our relationship is very good. We talked a long time ago that maybe one day we can play together,'' Sosa said.

``Right now, I feel more comfortable having Freddie (McGriff) and Moises hitting behind me. I've never had that before. They are probably going to pitch to me more because we have two great hitters behind me,'' Sosa said.

Sosa's 2001 season was overshadowed by Bonds.

Sosa had 64 homers last year, becoming the first player to reach 60 three times. He batted .328 and led the majors in RBIs (160), runs (146), total bases (425) and intentional walks (37). He set team records in total bases, extra-base hits (103) and slugging percentage (.737).

And he was at his best down the stretch, hitting 24 homers, batting .385 and driving in 55 runs in the final 48 games.

Entering his 11th season with the Cubs, Sosa has missed just 11 games in the last five years.

``With Sammy, you expect those type numbers,'' Baylor said, looking forward to Thursday's exhibition opener. ``He has to get his swing conditioned and he might be able to play.''

Notes: Baylor said Jason Bere is to start Thursday's exhibition opener against the Giants. Kerry Wood and Jon Lieber are to start the following two games. ... Alou still is not able to take batting practice because of a sore side.
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