YANKEES SAY ' SO LONG ' TO LUIS SOJO
Tampa, Florida The Yankees said goodbye to a World Series hero and one of the most popular players in their clubhouse yesterday morning when JOE TORRE and BRIAN CASHMAN informed LUIS SOJO they were going with RON COOMER over him for the second backup infielder's spot.
Sojo wasn't released from a minor-league contract, worth $ 350,000. He was told that if something happens injury-wise before Opening Day he would be considered. Sojo didn't show at Legends Field for last night's game against the Reds, and told Torre he was going to talk with his agent, BRIAN DAVID.
Torre made it very clear that GEORGE STEINBRENNER wants Sojo, 36, to remain with the organization if his playing days are through. "He understands, he didn't question," Torre said of Sojo, who hit .345 in 13 spring games. "Louie didn't show anger, but I am sure he is disappointed." According to Torre, Coomer provides something Sojo doesn't: the ability to drive a ball.
"Both play well defensively and play the corners, but Coomer gives us more pop off the bench," Torre said of the 35-year-old Coomer, who is in camp on a minor league deal worth $ 500,000. Coomer, who hit eight homers last year for the Cubs, reached double-figure homer totals the previous seasons with the Twins. Going into last night's action, Coomer was hitting .261 with a homer and four RBIs in 23 games.
"I feel bad for him [Sojo]," ENRIQUE WILSON said while sitting next to Sojo's locker. "He is such a good guy. I think he could play one more year. He was swinging good, playing defense and he was in shape." Asked how Sojo took the news, Wilson said he was down.
"He was a little disappointed," Wilson said of his friend, who helped Wilson adjust to New York after the Yankees acquired him from the Pirates last June 13. "He thought he had a chance to make the team. I feel bad for him. He told me he wanted to play this year and then retire." Sojo actually did announce his retirement following last year's World Series but changed his mind.
Sojo, a two-term Yankee, known for his sure hands and wonderful sense of humor, is best remembered for his World Series-winning RBI single off AL LEITER in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2000 World Series. "If I don't get that hit, they don't bring me back," Sojo said in the middle of last season, a year in which he was rarely used. Despite being with the club all season, Sojo appeared in just 39 games and got 79 at-bats.
Budding superstar second baseman ALFONSO SORIANO will miss Sojo, his mentor. "He taught me everything at second base," said Soriano, who was moved from short to second last spring when CHUCK KNOBLAUCH's severe throwing disorder forced him from second to left field. "When I did something good he told me and when I did something bad he told me. He was so important to me. We worked and talked every day. And, he is a nice guy, too." Torre appreciated Sojo taking the time to help Soriano, Wilson and other Latin players.
"He will always be remembered fondly by the people of New York," said Torre. "A lot of times when you have Latin players, sometimes they feel isolated, and they may have this barrier where the communication isn't where they would like it to be. "Louie did a great deal in that regard, helping players relax and maybe accelerating their progress. Louie was someone you enjoyed having around. He was a lot of fun, and he knew when it was time to conduct business."
by George King - The New York Post 29 March 2002
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