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SPRING TRAINING ROUNDUP News and notes



Published: Thu, February 24, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Orioles: As a way of introducing himself to his new teammates, Sammy Sosa slammed about two dozen baseballs far over the center-field wall during his first workout with Baltimore. Before he was done, nearly half the squad interrupted their drills to watch the show. "Sammy, we're going to run out of balls!" joked outfielder Larry Bigbie, who watched in awe as one shot after another soared onto an airfield behind the practice field. "They'll be parking the planes in the hangars from now on," Bigbie said. The Chicago Cubs were relieved to get rid of Sosa after his troubled 2004 season, and the Orioles are delighted to have him. During his stay in Chicago, Sosa battled with Mark McGwire in a memorable home run duel in 1998, went to the All-Star game seven times and was the 1998 NL MVP. But he contends that the corked bat and his early departure from the ball park ruined an otherwise wonderful relationship. "For the 13 years I was in Chicago, I only made two mistakes. That's pretty good," he said. "If I had known that leaving early last year would have caused such a controversy, I would have never done it. My manager (Dusty Baker) told me I had a day off. But what can I say?"

Tigers: Ugueth Urbina said he planned to report to spring training, even if his kidnapped mother still was being held. He didn't want to show her captors that he was weak. Now that Maura Villarreal is safe following a rescue operation last Friday, Urbina said an indescribable weight has been lifted from his shoulders. "I feel like I'm 18 years old," the reliever said, speaking publicly about the ordeal for the first time. Villarreal, 54, was rescued by Venezuelan police during an 8-hour raid that left two of her abductors dead, two captured and seven others as fugitives. Police described the kidnappers as Venezuelan and Colombian drug smugglers. She was held for 5 months, 18 days in a camp that police called a drug-traffickers' hideout in Venezuela's southern mountains. Urbina and his two brothers, Ulmer and Ulises, were at a loss. "There wasn't much we could do. We'd never been in this situation, and we didn't know where she was," Urbina said. "Where can you go to try to find her? She could be anywhere. It's hard. It's not like the movies. It's real life."

Braves: Shortstop Rafael Furcal hustled off the field, ignoring several television crews that wanted to speak with him. At his locker a few minutes later, he responded tersely to an interview request: "Are you going to ask me about baseball?" Furcal spent 13 days in jail during the off-season, and four weeks in an alcohol treatment center following his second conviction for drunken driving. The 26-year-old Furcal gave up alcohol after his latest arrest, but also said he doesn't believe he has a drinking problem. "Just bad luck," he said.

Giants: Manager Felipe Alou said he thinks he'll probably be back for a fourth season in 2006. His contract ends after this season and Alou turns 70 in May, but he has shown he still has enough energy to lead the Giants for 162 games. Also, he wants to manage his son, Moises, for another season. "I believe if the team asked me to come back, I would come back," Felipe Alou said. "And if I asked the team to come back, they'd probably let me come back. But we're not there yet."

Associated Press




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