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Sosa dropped to sixth spot to help slumping slugger



Published: Wed, June 29, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



His average dipped to .239 and he hasn't homered in nine straight games.

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Sammy Sosa was dropped to sixth in the Baltimore Orioles' batting order Tuesday, a move designed to take pressure off the slumping slugger.

Sosa started the day in a 3-for-31 funk that dropped his batting average to .239. He had gone nine straight games without a home run and struck out at least once in 11 consecutive games before Sunday.

Sosa had batted fourth or fifth in the lineup since joining the Orioles in an offseason trade with the Chicago Cubs. Manager Lee Mazzilli called the outfielder into his office Tuesday, hours before Baltimore faced the New York Yankees, to tell him of the move.

"I'd rather have it come from me than him seeing it or reading it first," Mazzilli said.

Starters missing

The Orioles are without injured starters Javy Lopez, Melvin Mora and B.J. Surhoff, and Mazzilli thinks Sosa has been trying too hard to carry the team by himself. So he put Sosa in a spot in the lineup that comes with lesser expectations.

"I don't want to put him in spot where all the pressure is on him. I tried to alleviate some of it, and let him go out and play," Mazzilli said. "We had a real good conversation. He said, 'I appreciate you being honest with me. Whatever you need, I'm going to do."'

Sosa groused when dropped in the order last season by Cubs manager Dusty Baker, but this time he accepted the move without any animosity, in part because Mazzilli made a point of talking to him before the lineup was posted.

"He was really nice about it. I really respect that," Sosa said. "It's not the first time I've hit sixth. I don't have a problem with that."

Slumpin' Sammy

He was known as Slammin' Sammy in Chicago because of his home-run power, but recently he's been Slumpin' Sammy, as evidenced by his 1-for-19 performance over his last four games.

"I'm a competitor. But I've got a pitcher trying to get me out, too. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose," Sosa said. "The only thing I can do is go out there and keep fighting."

Teammate Miguel Tejada figures it's only a matter of time before Sosa again finds his rhythm at the plate.

"He's a guy that used to hitting. He's a superstar, one of the best home-run hitters in the game," the shortstop said. "One of these days, everything is going to come through. The whole team is not hitting. It's not only Sammy Sosa."

Baltimore started the day with a six-game losing streak. During the skid, they scored more than four runs only once and were limited to two runs or fewer in half the losses.




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