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Soriano Takes Wrong Turn

June 06, 2004|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Back in the Bronx, Alfonso Soriano promptly got lost.

He was at Yankee Stadium on Friday for the first time since he was traded in February to the Texas Rangers, in New York for the start of a three-game series against his former team. He had never been to the visitors' clubhouse on the third-base side of the ballpark.

"In '99, I got lost when I got to the Yankees. Now, I got lost, too," he said. "I always come to the right. Today, I came to the left side. I don't know where I'm going."

He sure knows what to do at the plate, though. Soriano quickly reminded Yankees fans what he's capable of, hitting a three-run homer off Kevin Brown in third inning for a 3-0 lead.

It was the seventh homer of the season for Soriano, the leading vote-getter for next month's All-Star game. He's impressed the Rangers all year, entering the series with a .277 average, 29 RBIs and five steals.

With a big smile, as always, Soriano looked at home at Yankee Stadium, where he greeted security guards -- and Texas owner Tom Hicks. Instead of staying with the Rangers at their Manhattan hotel, he slept at his apartment in nearby Fort Lee, N.J.

When he batted in the first inning, he was given a standing ovation as he walked to the plate. He exchanged greetings with New York catcher Jorge Posada, then tipped his batting helmet to the fans. And when he went to second base in the bottom of the inning, the Bleacher Creatures chanted his name until Soriano raised his arm in acknowledgment.

"I don't miss playing for the Yankees," Soriano said. "I miss my friends, my teammates."

With the Yankees last year, he batted .290 during the regular season with 38 homers and 91 RBIs, but he slumped badly during the postseason, hitting just .206 with one homer, nine RBIs and a record 26 strikeouts in 68 at-bats. He was dropped from the starting lineup for Game 5 of the World Series because of the slump.

"Sori, as many good things as he did here, really took a beating for postseason play last year," New York manager Joe Torre said.

Soriano said Torre was "like my father when I was with the Yankees." Torre acknowledged that Soriano's slide was the subject of much discussion in New York before the trade.

"I think it relieved him from that scrutiny," Torre said.

Before the game, Soriano wasn't sure what to expect. He remembered the warm reception Tino Martinez received from fans when he came to Yankee Stadium after signing with St. Louis.

"I hope they love me," he said.

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