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Fans cheer as Sosa returns to baseball

Sat., Feb. 24, 2007

Sammy Sosa returned to the field Friday at Surprise, Ariz., after a year away from the game, greeted warmly by fans before his first spring training workout with the Texas Rangers.

The 38-year-old slugger, fifth on baseball’s home-run list, got to the complex several hours before the Rangers’ first full-squad workout. Sosa has a minor league deal with his original team, hoping for a chance to get back to the major leagues.

On his way to the practice field, Sosa passed through a small group of fans, with one yelling, “Good luck, Sammy.” He stopped and posed for a picture.

“I just expect Sammy to come in and be Sammy,” first-year manager Ron Washington said. “We’re going to do everything we can to try to get him going and maybe he can help us win some ballgames.”

Wearing a short-sleeve shirt with yellow and light blue stripes when he first arrived around dawn, Sosa joked with reporters by looking at his watch as if to remind them he showed up early.

Rivera looks sharp

Mariano Rivera sailed through his first batting practice session.

The New York Yankees closer threw 35 pitches to a hitting group that included Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu and Robinson Cano.

“Mariano was fine,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Rivera was sidelined from Aug. 31 to Sept. 22 last year because of a muscle strain near his right elbow. The 37-year-old right-hander finished 5-5 with 34 saves and a 1.80 ERA.

“No problems,” Rivera said.

Rivera worked on throwing strikes, which meant Jeter and the others didn’t have to face his cutter. Rivera is fourth on the career saves list with 413 and is first with 34 postseason saves.

Johnson returns

Randy Johnson pitched off a mound for the first time since back surgery in October and said after his private bullpen session that he felt fine.

The Big Unit threw 25 fastballs and said he was “pretty free and easy” – although reporters were not allowed to verify that for themselves. Johnson’s private workout was viewed by Arizona Diamondbacks coaches on a field away from the media. Johnson said he wasn’t trying to keep the workout a secret.

“Just in case I’m launching balls over in the White Sox parking lot,” Johnson said with a chuckle, referring to the Diamondbacks’ spring training neighbors. “I was going to report to you guys regardless.”

Uribe thinks he’s in clear

Chicago White Sox shortstop Juan Uribe thinks his legal troubles are behind him.

Uribe was alleged to have shot a farmer in his native Dominican Republic during the off-season. He also believes someone tried to extort more than $900,000 from him in connection with the case.

“Everyone knows I wasn’t involved, and I’m just glad it’s over with,” he said through an interpreter after going through his first workout with the White Sox.

Martinez waits for news

New York Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez should know next week when he can start throwing.

Recovering from rotator cuff surgery, Martinez is likely to miss the first half of the season. He repeated that he’s working hard at rehabilitation and expects his right shoulder to heal.

“If it doesn’t, then I need to hang it up, hang it and go home because I’m not going to work any harder,” he said.

Around the league

Jo Matumoto, a 36-year-old left-hander who pitched for Brazil’s national team, agreed to a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and was invited to spring training. … Baltimore Orioles reliever Jamie Walker sustained a concussion when he was hit in the back of the head by a Nick Markakis line drive during batting practice.


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