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Sosa signs, says he won't let Rangers down

1/30/2007 - MLB Texas Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Sammy Sosa is back in baseball -- and
back to fielding the same steroids questions that dogged him when
he left the game more than a year ago.

Sosa and the Texas Rangers agreed to a minor league contract
Tuesday, giving the former slugger his first crack at the major
leagues since the 2005 season with Baltimore, when he hit .221 with
14 home runs in 102 games.

If he makes the Rangers' roster at the end of spring training --
and Sosa said there's only a "one in a million" chance that he
won't -- he would get a $500,000, one-year deal. He could also earn
up to $2.1 million more in performance bonuses.

"You guys won't be disappointed," Sosa said. "I wanted to
come back in 2006, but I was beaten mentally. ... I'm fresh. I'm
relaxed. I've got my game face again, and I feel great. My body's
in shape. I'm ready to go."

The 38-year-old, fifth on the career list with 588 home runs,
said Tuesday he spent the past year working out and knows he must
rightfully earn his spot. He added that he still has as much as
five "good years" of baseball left in him.

But the seven-time All-Star said his comeback isn't about
disproving rumors that performance-enhancing drugs elevated him
among the game's most feared power hitters.

Before his last season with the Orioles, Sosa was one of several
players who testified before a congressional committee looking into
steroid use in professional baseball. Like Mark McGwire, Sosa is
suspected by some of having used steroids before they were banned
by baseball after the 2002 season.

Sosa said Tuesday that there has always been speculation but
"never any evidence."

"I am not going to go to every fan's home and knock on the door
and say to them: `Believe in me,"' he said. "This is not my
style."

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels insisted that Sosa still has
to earn his spot with the Rangers. If he makes the team, Sosa would
be primarily a designated hitter but still could see some time in
the outfield.

"We told him he doesn't have to come in here and be the man,"
Daniels said. "We've already got guys in the clubhouse that are
established and are our leaders."

Daniels said the only possible downside was the distraction that
might come with a player of Sosa's stature in spring training -- a
time when the Rangers will begin changing course under new manager
Ron Washington.

"We're not naive. Obviously this is the only press conference
we've had for a minor league contract," Daniels said. "His name
alone is going to provide some level of distraction, obviously. And
that was a little bit of a negative for me, just because I feel
we've got so many positive things going on. ... But as we talked
about it as a group, we felt the pros outweighed the cons."

Sosa was the NL MVP in 1998, when he batted .308 with a
career-high 66 homers and 158 RBIs for the Cubs. That was the
season he was in the home run chase with McGwire, who became the
first major leaguer to hit 70 homers.

The contract reunites Sosa with the team that first signed him
as a 16-year-old in 1985. Sosa's first homer came with Texas in
1989, the only one he hit in 25 games before being traded to the
White Sox.

In his career with the Rangers (1989), Chicago White Sox
(1989-91), Chicago Cubs (1992-2004) and Orioles, Sosa has batted
.274 with 1,575 RBIs and has hit 60 home runs or more in a year
three times.

Sosa said there were offers from other teams, but he liked the
idea of starting and ending his career with the same club. Sosa's
first minor league manager was Rudy Jaramillo, now the Rangers'
hitting coach.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Sammy is still hitting at a
big league level," Jaramillo said.

Sosa said he's in good enough shape to play despite taking a
year off. He shied from making projections about his stats.

"If you give me the at-bats, of course I'm going to perform,"
he said. "I know how to hit. Without a doubt, the numbers are
going to be there."

Sosa shouldn't worry about getting at-bats -- that seems tops on
Washington's spring training agenda. Washington said he might play
Sosa in two games in the same day as part of a plan to give Sosa
whatever he needs to make the team.

"He brings pedigree. He brings attitude. He brings commitment.
He brings effort," Washington said. "He's got attitude, and I
hope that attitude rubs off on everybody."