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BASEBALL DAILY REPORT : AMERICAN LEAGUE : Ex-Angel Sojo Now Slim, Fast Mariner

October 12, 1995|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

Too fat, the Toronto Blue Jays said. Too slow, the Angels said. Not enough patience at the plate or range in the field, both teams said. The bad rap on Luis Sojo seemed to grow along with his waist line, but it wasn't as if he had much of a defense.

"I was overweight," Sojo, 29, acknowledged. "That's one of the main reasons the Blue Jays and Angels traded me."

The extra pounds negatively affected all facets of Sojo's play. So there was only one possible solution--he took off the weight.

Sojo dropped 10 pounds in the winter of 1994-95, going from 192 to 182, and now look at him: Relatively svelte starting shortstop for the Seattle Mariners, dependable defender, decent speed, improved range, playoff hero.

"I go in restaurants and people shake my hand, tell me I'm doing a good job," said Sojo, whose RBI double in the seventh inning Tuesday gave Seattle a 3-2 victory over Cleveland in Game 1. "It's a great feeling. I've never had that feeling before."

Sojo never amounted to much in Anaheim, except on the scales. He hit .258 with 20 RBIs in 1991 and .272 with 43 RBIs in 1992 before the Angels, believing he was a bust, traded him back to Toronto after the '92 season.

"I wasn't happy about what happened there," said Sojo. "I think I did a good job for those guys and they didn't appreciate it."

Sojo's efforts have been well received in Seattle, where he hit .289 with 39 RBIs this season and beat out 20-year-old, former No. 1 draft choice Alex Rodriguez for the starting job around midseason.

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The Mariners may be wrapped up in their playoff series against the Indians, but many are keeping a close eye on discussions between Washington Gov. Mike Lowry and state legislative leaders on a financing plan to build a new stadium, which club officials say is needed to keep the team in Seattle.

"We've got to get a stadium here," said Mariner right fielder Jay Buhner said. "It would be a real shame to have a year like this, win the division and maybe the AL pennant and have no place to hang the banner. . . . Good grief, we just won the division and we don't know if we're even going to be in Seattle next year. To lose a team would be devastating."

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