Sosa Has More Pressing Issues Than Answering Steroids Questions

Friday, February 23rd 2007, 8:27 am
By: News On 6

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) _ Sammy Sosa isn't interested in answering the lingering questions about steroids. After a year out of baseball, the slugger has more pressing issues with the Texas Rangers.

``I don't have to convince nobody,'' Sosa said Friday. ``I know who I am. I have been good to this game, I will continue to be great to this game, I will continue to perform. ... I don't want to talk about whatever happened in Congress. This is not my problem. I've got to make the team.''

Two years after being among several players who testified before a congressional committee looking into steroid use in professional baseball, the 38-year-old Sosa is trying to make a comeback and has a minor league contract with his original team.

But he's still fielding the same questions that dogged him when he left the game after the 2005 season with the Baltimore Orioles. Like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, Sosa is suspected by some of having used steroids before they were banned by baseball 4 1/2 years ago.

``I don't want to talk about that,'' Sosa said. ``Let's talk about baseball. Let's talk about 2007, and the talent we have in Texas, and what we can do this year.''

The former NL MVP and seven-time All-Star, fifth with 588 career home runs, took part in the Rangers' first full-squad workout. Instead of having Sosa talk to the media in the clubhouse afterward, the team set up a news conference for him in a meeting room at a library across the street.

Sosa insisted he isn't worried about the perceptions others may have of him, and not thinking yet about constantly being asked similar questions if he makes the team.

``I just got here. Let me do my deal first and then I'll worry about the rest,'' he said. ``I've got to take care of business. ... I'm going to go out there and do what (the Rangers) want me to do, show them what I've been doing. I'm in shape. Look, I don't have no belly.''

Sosa moved his hands over his striped short-sleeve shirt to illustrate his point. He still has bulging biceps, though they not as large as they were during his playing prime.

``I'm a little older. It doesn't mean I can't hit you 30 or 40 home runs,'' he said. ``What's the deal? You think I'm dead?''

In his career that started in 1989 with the Rangers, Sosa has batted .274 with 1,575 RBIs and three 60-homer seasons. His MVP season was in 1998, when he hit .308 with a career-high 66 homers and 158 RBIs for the Chicago Cubs _ and was in that memorable home run chase with McGwire, the first major leaguer to hit 70 homers.

But Sosa hit .221 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs in 102 games for the Orioles in 2005 before sitting out a year.

``I took that year to recharge my battery,'' he said. ``I was beaten mentally in Baltimore.''

Sosa clarified that he was bothered mentally by his poor performance on the field, not the rumors.

If he makes the Rangers' 40-man roster, Sosa would get a $500,000, one-year deal and could earn more than $2 million in performance bonuses. But he said he's not coming back because of money or the pursuit of 600 home runs.

``I want to compete. Financially, I'm OK. I wanted to be here, wanted to play baseball. This is my life,'' he said. ``I'm not coming back for 12 home runs. I'm coming back for more than that.''

Sosa was 16 when Texas signed him from the Dominican Republic in 1985. He was still a lanky kid in 1989 when he made his major league debut and hit his first home run, the only one he had in 25 games for the Rangers before being traded to the Chicago White Sox.

During his first workout Friday, fans were constantly calling out his name and wishing him luck. They swarmed him when he came out for stretching exercises.

The fans then had to wait until nearly two hours before Sosa took batting practice on the field, where he hit only three home runs in 38 swings. He fouled off about a dozen pitches that rattled the cage, with a handful of grounders and routine flyballs.

Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who also was Sosa's first minor league manager in the Rangers' organization, was pleased with what he saw.

``He'll be fine,'' Jaramillo said. ``The bat speed is there. It's just a matter of getting the lower half of his body in a better position. His timing was off.''

Sosa went through fielding and throwing drills with the outfielders, even though he's expected to be primarily the designated hitter if he's on the team. His hitting group did bunting and base running drills and went into a cage before finally going onto the field to hit.

``We're excited to see what he can do,'' first baseman Mark Teixeira said. ``He's obviously got a lot of talent. If he can be the player that he was before the last few years, then we're going to be excited to have him.''

Rangers owner Tom Hicks said he had a ``candid conversation'' with Sosa last month before giving general manager Jon Daniels the go-ahead to make the deal.

``From my perspective, I have seen nothing that would make me doubt that decision at all,'' Hicks said. ``It obviously has to happen on the field.''

Hicks also said he talked to Bud Selig beforehand, and described the commissioner as ``thrilled'' and ``very supportive of our decision.''