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BASEBALL Orioles hope to clean up with Sosa in lineup



Published: Sat, January 29, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The slugger is projected to bat fourth for Baltimore if the trade goes through.

BALTIMORE (AP) -- By adding Sammy Sosa to an already formidable batting order, the Baltimore Orioles can salvage a disappointing off-season 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."

Off year for Sammy

Sosa batted .253 in 2004, struck out 133 times, missed a month with a back injury and failed to 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 off-season for the Orioles, whose biggest move was signing free agent reliever Steve Kline.

Worth the risk?

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.




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