Rangers giving Sosa chance to play again

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Sammy Sosa has a contract with the Texas Rangers and a chance to get back to the major leagues. Now the former slugger has to go to spring training and earn a spot on the roster.

Sosa and the Rangers finalized a minor league contract Tuesday. If added to the major league roster, he would get a $500,000, one-year deal with the chance to earn $2.1 million more in performance bonuses.

“I am not going to let you guys down,” Sosa said during a conference call that included team executives. “So trust me. I’ve got to go to spring training ready. I know I have to make the team. (I’ve heard) that about 20 times.

“I wanted to come back in 2006, but I was beaten mentally,” he added. “I’m fresh. I’m relaxed. I’ve got my game face again, and I feel great. My body’s in shape. I’m ready to go.”

Sosa said his chance of failing to be added to the big league roster was “one in a million.”

“Believe me, I’m going to make that team,” he said.

The 38-year-old Sosa, who began his career with the Rangers, hasn’t played in the major leagues since 2005 with the Baltimore Orioles.

“For me this is about giving an opportunity to a guy who has done a lot for the game over the last 10, 15 years,” said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels. “What really came across to us was that Sammy wanted an opportunity, in the true sense of the word, to prove himself. He still thinks he has something left to give and wants to prove it to the industry, to the Rangers, to himself.”

Sosa is fifth on the career list with 588 home runs. Like Mark McGwire, Sosa is suspected by some of having using steroids before they were banned by baseball after the 2002 season.

When Sosa last played in 2005, the seven-time All-Star hit .221 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs in 102 games for Baltimore. During spring training that year, Sosa was one of several players who testified before a congressional committee looking into steroid use in professional baseball.

“There’s a lot of speculation, but no evidence,” Sosa said.

He doesn’t think it’s his job to prove he accumulated his statistics without performance-enhancing substances.

“I am not going to go to every fan’s home and knock on the door and say to them: “Believe in me,”‘ he said. “This is not my style.”

In his career with the Rangers (1989), Chicago White Sox (1989-91), Chicago Cubs (1992-2004) and Orioles, Sosa has batted .274 with 1,575 RBIs and has hit 60 home runs or more in a year three times.

Sosa was the NL MVP in 1998, when he batted .308 with a career-high 66 homers and 158 RBIs for the Cubs. That was the season he was in the home run chase with McGwire, who became the first major leaguer to hit 70 homers.

“I know I’m ready 100 percent mentally, physically. I’m hungry and I want to come back, and the numbers are going to be there, no question about it,” Sosa said. “I’m not going to be playing until 48 or 49 because this is too much. but I think I have four, five years left in my body.”

Rookie manager Ron Washington said Sosa primarily would be a designated hitter if he makes the team.

, but would still play a few games in the outfield. Sosa could bat fifth in the Rangers’ lineup behind All-Star shortstop Michael Young and switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira.

“All he wants is an opportunity, and the Texas Rangers organization decided we want to give him that opportunity,” Washington said. “Sammy will tell us by the way he performs what he’s all about.”

Sosa’s first homer came with Texas in 1989, the only one he hit in 25 games before being traded to the White Sox. The Rangers signed Sosa at age 16 in July 1985, and his first minor league manager was Rudy Jaramillo, now the team’s hitting coach.

“He’s going to have to prove himself day in and day out. He’s going to have to win his teammates’ respect,” Jaramillo said. “His talent, his ability has to be there. It’s there. It’s now him going and proving it in spring training.”

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