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Cubs sign Sosa for four years

Sammy Sosa's salary is back in line with his home run production.

Sosa, who could have become a free agent after the season, agreed Friday to an extension through 2005 that is worth up to $72-million for four years.

"I'm very happy. I always said I wanted to finish my career here and Chicago has been great to me," Sosa said, surrounded by his family at a news conference at the Cubs' spring training camp in Mesa, Ariz.

"When I retire, I'm going to retire with a Chicago Cubs hat to the Hall of Fame."

If Sosa puts up big numbers, he would get $32.75-million over two years and have the chance to negotiate another new contract.

His deal includes a $6-million signing bonus, $12-million in 2002 and $13-million in 2003. He can terminate the contract after that season and become a free agent, or exercise player options for $16-million in 2004 and $17-million in 2005.

Sosa also gets a $3.5-million severance payment when the contract ends, but that figure is cut in half if he leaves after the 2003 season. If he exercises the player options, the Cubs get an $18-million team option for 2005 with a $4.5-million buyout.

Over the past three seasons, he has hit 179 homers, batted .305 and averaged 146 RBI.

His 50 homers last season led the majors, and he joined St. Louis' Mark McGwire and Babe Ruth as the only players with more than two 50-homer seasons.

BRAVES: The reality of coming back from elbow reconstruction surgery has set in for John Smoltz, who said he's not a sure bet to make his first scheduled start of the season, April 5 against the Mets.

"All along, people said it takes longer than you think," Smoltz said. "I'm coming to see that. There's no snapping your fingers and saying, "Here, I'm back.' "

CARDINALS: Right-hander Garrett Stephenson was in a minor traffic accident Thursday night, but it didn't stop him from doing his scheduled throwing.

DIAMONDBACKS: Reggie Sanders showed up with a tire as evidence and a bat that did some serious damage.

Sanders, who failed to make it to a game in Phoenix on Wednesday because his Mercedes had a flat tire and the spare didn't fit, hit a pair of three-run home runs against the White Sox.

Sanders had the offending spare tire in front of his locker.

"He had to defend himself," teammate Matt Williams said. "We were all over him."

DODGERS: Despite waiting until 19 minutes before Thursday's midnight deadline to rescind a trade demand, centerfielder Tom Goodwin insisted he is happy with the team.

"It all worked out," Goodwin said. "It was an option that I had, and I exercised it."

In a move seen as a formality, Goodwin filed a trade demand early in spring training. If he hadn't rescinded it, the Dodgers would have been forced to trade him or he would have become a free agent.

"It's part of negotiating," Goodwin said. "(I waited) just because I could. The deadline was at 12."

Also, the team formed an affiliation with the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes of the Japanese professional league, allowing the teams to take part in developmental programs for players, coaches, trainers and scouts. In the past four years, the Dodgers also signed agreements with Chinese, Korean and Italian teams.

MARLINS: Jesus Sanchez has been hit hard in three spring starts, including allowing eight runs in 3 innings Friday, and it's starting to worry manager John Boles.

"I'm puzzled by the way Sanchez threw," Boles said. "We're talking about the fourth or fifth spot in our rotation. He came here with the job to lose. But he still has time."

METS: With a bemused, what-is-it-this-time expression, former Rays pitcher Rick White listened to the latest Internet report speculating on him being traded: to Kansas City for outfielder Mark Quinn.

"You mean they can't get (Mark) Sweeney?" White joked.

In reality, White said, "it's actually kind of nice" being the target of other general managers after a few seasons of obscurity.

The rumor game can be amusing at times, but White isn't anxious to leave.

"If I get traded, I get traded," he said. "I can't worry about that. But if they have to trade me, that's too bad. I've made a lot of friends here."

Though Mike Piazza (bone bruise, left knee) is feeling much better, manager Bobby Valentine will likely give the catcher today off before returning him to the lineup Sunday or Tuesday, to use Monday's scheduled off day.

"I'm getting a little anxious. I kind of want to get back out there," said Piazza, who has not played since March 6.

REDS: Dmitri Young, who had missed eight games since bruising his right shoulder March 7 while trying to make a diving catch, had a pinch-hit single in the seventh. The Reds plan to use Young as a designated hitter the next two days when they play AL teams.

AL

ANGELS: Catcher Benjie Molina, who finished third in rookie of the year voting last season, agreed to a four-year contract.

After signing him to a $280,000, one-year deal this spring, general manager Bill Stoneman and manager Mike Scioscia said they were so pleased with his handling of the pitching staff and progression at the plate, they wanted to sign him long-term.

ORIOLES: Third baseman Cal Ripken participated in live drills for the first time, stretching his activities beyond throwing, running and taking grounders.

It's unclear when he'll face live pitching for the first time after backing off this week.

Manager Mike Hargrove still considers Ripken a near certainty to be in the opening-day lineup, saying he was 99 percent sure "we'll be okay" and that the club hasn't reached the point of making contingency plans at third base because of Ripken's fractured rib.

TIGERS: Left-handed reliever Sean Runyan and right-handers Adam Bernero and Mark Johnson were sent to Triple-A Toledo. The cuts left 36 players in camp.

Starter Steve Sparks, a knuckleball thrower, slipped a called third strike on the inside corner past Ken Griffey in the first inning on a fastball.

"I usually come inside on him once a game, just to give him something else to look for," Sparks said.

WHITE SOX: Two pitchers aiming for a spot in the rotation struggled.

Jon Garland, who hadn't allowed a run in his last seven innings, melted against Arizona. Scheduled to throw 75 pitches in five innings, Garland threw 76 in three innings, giving up 11 runs (10 earned) on 11 hits.

He gave up nine runs on nine hits _ three of them homers _ in the first inning, when the Diamondbacks sent 12 to the plate.

Sean Lowe, coming off arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, was to go two innings, but lasted only 1 before hitting his 44-pitch limit. He allowed five earned runs on five hits, including Reggie Sanders' three-run homer.

Infielder Amaury Garcia was sent outright to Triple-A Charlotte.

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