Orioles relish thought of Sosa batting cleanup


Published: Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 1:46 a.m.
BALTIMORE - By adding Sammy Sosa to an already formidable batting order, the Baltimore Orioles can salvage a disappointing offseason and give their young pitching staff more margin for error.
''Maybe I'm putting my foot in my mouth,'' Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller said Saturday, ''but if you give me eight runs a game, I'll figure out the rest.''
The deal to obtain Sosa from the Chicago Cubs for second baseman Jerry Hairston and at least two minor league prospects had not been finalized yet. But Baltimore can already envision a lineup with Sosa batting cleanup behind Melvin Mora and Miguel Tejada and ahead of Rafael Palmeiro and Javy Lopez.
''We'll probably hit him fourth, though we haven't talked about it yet,'' hitting coach Terry Crowley said. ''It's a big addition. It will make us better; I'm just not sure how much better.''
Sosa batted .253 in 2004, struck out 133 times, missed a month with a back injury and failed drive in 100 runs for the first time in a decade. But he hit 35 homers, more than any Oriole.
''He's going to be a great impact on the lineup,'' Baltimore outfielder David Newhan said. ''Plus, that personality, that energy he brings, it's something we needed.''
Even if Sosa, 36, no longer is considered one of the game's most beloved and feared sluggers.
Since his memorable home run duel with Mark McGwire in 1998, Sosa has experienced a steady drop-off in power and an increase in inappropriate behavior. He created a furor by skipping the Cubs' finale last season, and was suspended for seven games in 2003 for corking his bat.
Had the Orioles been successful in their bid to secure free agent Carlos Delgado, they probably wouldn't have given Sosa a second thought. Delgado's decision to sign with the Florida Marlins on Thursday typified a frustrating offseason for the Orioles, whose biggest move was signing free agent reliever Steve Kline.
With the fans fuming over the team's inactivity following a seventh straight losing season, Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie probably figured it was better to take a risk than do nothing at all.
''It's certainly a big lift for people who were getting depressed,'' Miller said. ''If Sosa does close to what he's capable of doing, he will fill the stadium.''
Hairston, who was to start spring training as the backup to Brian Roberts at second base, said, ''Nothing's official, but if it gets done it could be great for both teams. Obviously, the Orioles have been searching for a power hitter, and Sammy should help the offense. It benefits me greatly because I've been looking to play second base. I know the Cubs have Todd Walker, but this is like going home.''
The Hairston family has ties to Chicago, many stemming from the days when his father, Jerry Sr., played for the White Sox.
''I thank the Orioles for trading me to a team like Chicago, a great place to play,'' Hairston said. ''And if it doesn't happen, that's fine because Baltimore is also a great place to play.''
But Hairston sounded eager for the deal to be finalized, and he suspects Sosa feels the same way.
''Maybe Sammy needs a change of scenery,'' Hairston said, ''and maybe I fit in that category, too.''
Sosa could bring fans flocking to Camden Yards, but not everyone's convinced the deal is a good one for the Orioles.
Bill Nellies, 40, a former mini-plan season ticket holder, said, ''Sammy Sosa walked out on the Cubs because they were eliminated. The Orioles will be eliminated by June. Will he still show up? For the money we'll end up spending on Sosa, we could have gotten a pitcher who's better than anything we have now.''
Because the Cubs have agreed to pay a substantial portion of Sosa's salary, Baltimore could end up spending less for him than they would have for free agent pitcher Carl Pavano, who signed a $39.95 million, four-year contract with the New York Yankees after being courted by the Orioles.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top