Sosa passes physical, heads to O's

BALTIMORE -- Tapping his heart and thrusting both thumbs
upward, Sammy Sosa stepped to the podium and flashed the broad
smile that Chicago Cubs fans know too well.

Sosa loved his 13 years with the Cubs, yet he happily put all
that behind him Wednesday upon joining the Baltimore Orioles.

"I gave Chicago everything that I have. It was a beautiful
experience for my wife and family," he said. "I had a great time
in Chicago, but you have to move on. This is my new house, and I
love it."

Sosa joined the Orioles after commissioner Bud Selig approved
the deal and the slugger passed his physical. Chicago received
second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. and two minor leaguers, second
baseman Mike Fontenot and right-handed pitcher Dave Crouthers.

Sosa was peppered with questions about his final days with the
team and his shaky relationship with Cubs manager Dusty Baker. Sosa
insisted that, while he will take nothing but fond memories from
his days with the Cubs, it was time to start anew.

"My legacy is there, but I haven't finished yet. The best of
Sammy Sosa is coming now," he said. "I wanted to finish my career
there, but it didn't happen. I'm here now in Baltimore and I'm
going to win the crowd."

Under terms of the addendum to Sosa's contract that he signed
Wednesday, the Cubs will pay $16.15 million of the $25 million Sosa
was still owed under his $72 million, four-year agreement,
according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

Baltimore is responsible for just $8.85 million of Sosa's $17
million salary this year, with the Cubs paying the rest. Because
Sosa is paid on a 12-month basis and already had received
$1,307,692 of his salary this year, that amount was credited to
what the Cubs owe Baltimore, meaning the Orioles will receive
$6,842,308 in cash from Chicago.

As part of the trade, Chicago will pay Sosa $3.5 million in
severance within 30 days. The $18 million 2006 option in his
contract was eliminated, and the $4.5 million buyout was converted
to a $4.5 million assignment bonus, which the Cubs must pay by
March 15. He also agreed to eliminate the $19 million option for
2007 that his contract said would be added if he was traded.

"It's a good situation for Sammy, it's a good situation for the
Baltimore Orioles and it's also something we feel is in our best
interests," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "Sammy has done
tremendous things for this organization and the game, and we feel
we should dwell on the positives that he's done for this franchise
when we needed it, and when the game needed it.

"The great things
he did in a four or five-year stretch had monumental

The man nicknamed Slammin' Sammy, whose 574 home runs rank
seventh on baseball's career list, endeared himself to Cubs fans
when he hit 66 homers in 1998 during a duel with Mark McGwire. Sosa
maintained his popularity and sweet home run swing for three years
after that, but his rapport with the team and its rabid fans began
to sour in 2003, when he was suspended for seven games for using a
corked bat.

After a 2004 season in which Sosa's batting average dipped to
.253 and he walked out on the team before its final game, the Cubs
began looking to deal the disgruntled star.

"Sometimes in life, change is good," Hendry said. "Certainly,
we wish him the best."

Even though his bat isn't as potent as it was five years ago,
the 36-year-old Sosa hit 35 homers in only 126 games last season.

"A lot of people say my numbers are down," he said, "but I
was out for almost 40 games and I hit 35 home runs. C'mon."

Because Sosa came at a bargain price and because Hairston was
merely a backup, the trade was an easy one for Baltimore to make.

"When Sammy was on the field, he produced. He may even spend
some time as the DH," Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan said.
"Our goal will be to keep him healthy; when that's happened he's
been a very productive player."

The Orioles entered the offseason looking for a right-handed
power hitter, and Sosa should provide some pop in the cleanup spot
batting behind Miguel Tejada and ahead of Rafael Palmeiro. Tejada
led the Orioles with 34 home runs -- in 162 games.

Now Tejada, who bats third, will have ample protection behind
him in the lineup from Sosa, whom manager Lee Mazzilli said will
bat cleanup.

"I'm very happy to have Sammy on my team," said Tejada, in
Mexico for the Caribbean World Series.

Chicago made an immediate move to shore up its lineup, agreeing
to a one-year contract with Jeromy Burnitz that guarantees the
outfielder $5 million.

Sosa's era at Wrigley Field was over.

"I'm hoping he will not be viewed as someone who did a lot of
wrong things in his last few months on the job," Hendry said. "He
was great to the fans to the fans for a lot of years, and that's
how he should be viewed. When he's done, we're going to talk about
600, maybe 700 home runs, and certainly a place in Cooperstown. He
did a lot of good things."