Loyal Torre adds Sojo to Yanks' roster

Posted: October 11, 2001

NEW YORK — Before becoming manager of the New York Yankees in 1996, Joe Torre had never participated in a World Series in 18 years as a player and 14 as a manager.

Since going to the Bronx, Torre has made it to four World Series, winning every time. He has never forgotten the players who helped put those four championship rings on his fingers.

The loyalty that Torre has for his players is the reason he campaigned against pitcher Andy Pettitte being traded to the Phillies in 1998.

It is also the reason that utility infielder Luis Sojo is on the Yankees' postseason roster, despite hitting .165 (13 for 79) in 39 games this season.

The 35-year-old Sojo, who plans to retire when the Yankees' season ends, was Torre's final roster selection, edging rookie Nick Johnson, a lefthanded hitter with power. Johnson is the nephew of Phillies manager Larry Bowa.

Sojo has been part of all four Yankees World Series championship teams during the Torre era. He was one of the heroes of last year's World Series victory over the Mets. Sojo's two-out, two-run single off Al Leiter in the top of the ninth inning broke a 2-2 tie in the decisive fifth game and propelled the Yankees to victory.

"When it came down to it, I couldn't think of a real good reason not to have Sojo on the roster," Torre said before Game 1 of the American League playoff series against the Oakland Athletics last night. "I felt more comfortable with the experienced guy. Louie has been here for six years and he's participated in what we've accomplished."

In delivering the good news to Sojo, Torre told the player that he was the team's "good-luck charm." Sojo was thrilled with the news.

"I felt like I had just been called up to the big leagues again," he said. "This is my last year. It would have been disappointing not to be on the postseason roster."

Rosters, limited to 25 players, can change after each round.

The A's left pitcher Gil Heredia, their No. 5 starter, off their first-round roster. Heredia was the losing pitcher when the A's lost to the Yankees in the deciding fifth game of last year's AL division series.

The Yankees-A's division series has many subplots.

Torre, who has presided over the Yanks' most recent dynasty, is without a contract for next season. Owner George Steinbrenner is expected to give Torre a two-year extension, but not until he sees how the team performs in the postseason.

Several members of the Yankees' core could be in their last seasons in pinstripes. Paul O'Neill is expected to retire. Chuck Knoblauch probably will not be re-signed. Tino Martinez can be a free agent.

Martinez had a strong season (.280, 34 HRs, 113 RBI). He will be seeking a multiyear extension, but the Yanks may be unwilling to give him one because they have the younger, cheaper first baseman in Johnson waiting in the wings. If Martinez files for free agency, the Mets and Red Sox are expected to make a run at him. The Phillies could also have some interest.

Further clouding Martinez's future with the Yankees is the team's attraction to Oakland first baseman Jason Giambi, another free-agent-to-be. Giambi, a strong candidate for a second straight AL MVP award, loves the big stage of New York and could be wooed by the Yankees.

Detroit Tigers outfielder Roger Cedeno has asked the players' union to investigate whether he was benched for the final three weeks of the season to keep him from collecting contract bonuses, said his agent, Peter Greenberg.

Cedeno last played Sept. 10, a day before Major League Baseball postponed games for almost a week because of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

After a workout during the six-game layoff, Cedeno and Tigers manager Phil Garner got into an argument in the team's clubhouse.

Cedeno was benched when play resumed on Sept. 17 and didn't play the remaining 19 games of the season. He finished the season three plate appearances short of earning a $50,000 bonus, Greenberg said.

Cedeno also could have gotten $75,000 bonuses with 28 and 53 more plate appearances.

Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Jason Kendall will have reconstructive surgery today on his left thumb but is expected to be ready for spring training.

The Boston Red Sox cut fan favorite Morgan Burkhart and light-hitting shortstop Craig Grebeck in the first moves of what could be a busy off-season.

Anaheim Angels third baseman Jose Fernandez had surgery on his left hand. Fernandez is expected to be ready for spring training.

Manager Mike Scioscia also had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Scioscia, a former all-star catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, will undergo a brief rehabilitation period.

Jim Salisbury's e-mail address is jsalisbury@phillynews.com.

This article contains information from Inquirer wire services.

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