Latin beat could have Sosa dancing with Red Sox

ON BASEBALL

Baseball

June 18, 2000|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Chicago Cubs superstar Sammy Sosa says it isn't so, but rumors that he might soon be traded to the Boston Red Sox make too much sense to discount.

The Red Sox need him.

He would like to play there, apparently more so than in New York.

And he holds all the cards if the Cubs decide to use him as the cornerstone of a rebuilding project.

Sammy rumors have been flying for the past few weeks. First, it seemed certain that he would become a Yankee. George Steinbrenner loves his kind of star power. Now, the recent revelations by former teammate Manny Alexander seem to confirm that Sosa is leaning toward Boston.

"He hopes he gets traded and he hopes gets traded here," Alexander told a Boston reporter on Tuesday. "We've got a lot of Latin players here, plus Boston is a lot like Chicago. He's thinking about coming here already to be with us - all the Latin players here, especially Pedro [Martinez], Jose [Offerman] and Ramon [Martinez]. Sammy loves to play where he's got a lot of friends."

Sosa publicly scolded Alexander on Friday for injecting himself into the situation, but that doesn't change the fact that Boston looks like a perfect fit. The Red Sox have the money to sign him. They have the prospects to trade for him. And, they need to keep him away from the Yankees.

Sosa would have some say in the matter, since he is a "10-5" player who has veto power over any proposed deal. If the Cubs want to move him, they'll have to send him somewhere he is willing to go.

The Red Sox would love to add an impact run-producer, but general manager Dan Duquette claimed there have been no trade talks with the Cubs (as of Tuesday) and cautioned against raising expectations among Red Sox fans.

"It's not fair to our fans to speculate that we're going to be pursuing star players and get everybody's expectations up," Duquette said. "It's all speculation at this point."

It is not, however, out of the question.

"We're going to look at all the options to help the ballclub," Duquette said. "And in terms of run production, we're going to look at anything that can help us."

One thing is certain. The price tag - Sosa's current $10 million salary and $11 million for next year - is not out of reach for the Red Sox.

"We're having a good year at the gate and we have some flexibility to add payroll as the team moves toward the playoffs," said Duquette.

Sosa would fit in nicely on a team that may be one impact player from unseating the Yankees in the American League East.

"Who wouldn't be happy?" said Pedro Martinez. "I am telling you who would be scared - the rest of the league. George [Steinbrenner], he might be a little snappy, huh?"

No doubt, Steinbrenner would do just about anything to prevent that, which guarantees that the Cubs will get full value for Sosa if they indeed decide to unload him.

Prudent move

The Arizona Diamondbacks played it safe with pitching ace Randy Johnson earlier this month, and their caution appears to have paid off. Johnson sat out a start and took a cortisone shot to relieve inflammation in his left shoulder, then returned from the eight-day layoff to pitch well in back-to-back victories over the Anaheim Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers.

"He looked like the old Randy to me," said Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez. "He's a mental lift for us. He's the guy who stops the bleeding for us. It's nice to see him out there."

Incidentally, Johnson moved into sole possession of 12th place on baseball's all-time strikeout list with his first one Wednesday, passing Detroit Tigers great Mickey Lolich. He finished with 11 to run his career total to 2,843.

Mystery of the East

Korean reliever Byung-Hyun Kim may look unorthodox with his submarine/sidearm delivery, but he's getting unprecedented results as the new Diamondbacks' closer.

Kim is 2-3 with a 1.67 ERA and nine saves, and apparently has replaced injury-ridden Matt Mantei as the full-time closer. His 55 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings have him on pace to break the major-league record for strikeouts per nine innings. He is averaging 15.3, just better than the record of 14.9 set last year by Houston closer Billy Wagner.

"I can see why," Angels outfielder Garret Anderson told reporters during the interleague series against Arizona. "Here's somebody throwing something you don't see every day. If he keeps the ball down and throws strikes the way he is, he is going to continue to be successful."

Mystery of the ages

Talk about getting old in a hurry. Braves prospect Rafael Furcal was 19 years old when he woke up on Monday, but - if you believe HBO - he was 22 1/2 when he went to bed that night.

HBO reporter Bernard Goldberg reported Monday that he had obtained Furcal's real birth certificate from the government office in Furcal's hometown - Loma de Cabrera in the Dominican Republic - and claimed that it proves Furcal was born more than three years earlier than the Aug. 24, 1980, birthdate on the documentation he presented when he signed with the Braves.

Furcal says the report is bogus.

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