SURPRISE, Ariz. - Sammy Sosa returned to the field Friday 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."
Sosa completed his physical Friday and greeted teammates in the clubhouse. With a bat in hand, he smiled and said, "Back in business." Rangers owner Tom Hicks, who was in camp for Sosa's first day, said he's anxious to see how things are going for the seven-time All-Star after a few weeks in camp.
"He says all the right things," Hicks said. "He just has to go out and do it now. I think he will." Sosa was 16 when Texas signed him from the Dominican Republic in 1985. He was still a lanky kid in 1989 when he made his major league debut and hit his first home run, the only one he had in 25 games for the Rangers before being traded to the Chicago White Sox.
When Sosa's minor league deal with Texas was announced in January, Sosa was fielding the same steroids questions that dogged him when he left the game after the 2005 season with Baltimore.
Before his season with the Orioles, when he hit .221 with 14 home runs and 45 RBI in 102 games, Sosa was one of several players who testified in front of a congressional committee looking into steroid use in baseball.
Sosa said in January that his comeback isn't about disproving the rumors that performance-enhancing drugs elevated him among the game's most feared power hitters.