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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / AMERICAN LEAGUE | OAKLAND VS. N.Y.
YANKEES / NOTES

Sojo Seems to Be Getting Younger by the Minute

October 08, 2000|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

NEW YORK — Yankee infielder Luis Sojo doesn't want to retire just yet. "To be honest with you," he said Saturday, "I want to play until I'm 50."

Some think Sojo already has. That's the running joke between Sojo and his teammates, who are always kidding the affable Sojo about his age.

The media guide lists Sojo at 34, but the gray in his hair and the fact he's from Venezuela--Latin America is, after all, home to the adjustable birth certificate--have caused some to speculate Sojo is closer to 40 than 35.

And Sojo, a utility infielder who has emerged as a starter during this division series, did little to dispel those rumors when he addressed the subject of retirement Saturday.

"I've got a difficult job," said Sojo, a former Angel. "I'm 34--I mean, I'm 35 years old, believe it or not. I see too many guys who are 28 or 29 who can do the same thing I do. It's going to get hard for me to get a job."

Not if he continues playing the way he has against the A's. While Derek Jeter, David Justice and Paul O'Neill combined for three hits in 33 at-bats in the first three games, Sojo went three for nine with two doubles and four runs batted in. However, he went 0 for 4 in Saturday's 11-1 loss.

Error-prone Chuck Knoblauch is on the bench, and second base in New York has become the Sojo district, as Sojo has started all four playoff games there. Manager Joe Torre even showed enough confidence in Sojo to bat him second in Game 4 Saturday night.

"Today, I come, I look at the bottom of the lineup and don't see my name, and I say, 'Uh-oh, what happened?' " said Sojo, who played a key bench role on Yankee championship teams in 1998 and '99. "Then, I saw I was batting second."

Sojo never envisioned playing a starting role when the Yankees, who let Sojo go as a free agent after 1999, acquired him from Pittsburgh on Aug. 7.

But Knoblauch sat out much of August and September because of an elbow injury, and Sojo hit .288 in 34 games and played solid defense in Knoblauch's place. With the Yankees struggling offensively, Torre has opted for the steady defensive second baseman in the playoffs.

Sojo did make a mistake Saturday. So confident was he the Yankees would win and close out the A's, he didn't bring his suitcase to the park.

"I told my wife if something happened, I'd call her after the game," Sojo said.

*

If the A's are to defeat the Yankees tonight and earn a league championship series berth against Seattle, they will have to overcome three potential obstacles.

Center fielder Long played Saturday night but was slowed considerably by a bruised left knee suffered in Game 3.

The A's may also be without key setup man Jim Mecir, the right-hander who had to leave Saturday night's game in the seventh inning because of patella tendinitis in his left knee.

Cleanup batter Olmedo Saenz, who hit a three-run homer in the first inning, had to leave the game in the ninth when he was hit on the right forearm by a Dwight Gooden pitch.

*

Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte, who will start Game 5 tonight, lobbied against Torre's decision to fly him to Oakland on Saturday, a day before a Game 5 that wouldn't have been played had New York won Game 4.

But Torre proved that manager knows best.

"He felt he could be here and get enough rest, but the schedule is nuts," Torre said before Saturday's game. "If we have to go out there, at least he'll be a little more rested than we will."

Game 1: Oakland 5, New York 3

Game 2: New York 4, Oakland 0

Game 3: New York 4, Oakland 2

Game 4: Oakland 11, New York 1

Today: New York at Oakland, 4:30 p.m. PDT, Channel 11

Series tied, 2-2

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