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Tavarez determined to deny Sosa

Tavarez determined to deny Sosa

Julian Tavarez and Sammy Sosa are fellow Dominicans and former Chicago Cubs teammates. But to hear Tavarez tell it, that's as far as the affinity goes.

"I don't have no friends, not in baseball," Tavarez said. "I can't call him my friend, because if they hit one of my guys and I have to go out there, I'm not going to be sorry for hitting Sammy. You can't call it 'friends' like that.

"When you're on the field, you don't have no friends. Because sometimes you've got to do things and you can't feel sorry for that."

But assuming that Sunday's finale of this three-game series in Texas doesn't involve retribution or protecting teammates, Tavarez knows his confrontations with Sosa still will carry a buzz. With 598 career home runs, Sosa is on the verge of becoming just the fifth player in history to hit 600.

"I only know Sammy is a home run guy," Tavarez said. "He's been one of the greatest players in baseball. He was a good teammate when I was with the Cubs (2001), and I'm glad that he's doing good and has come back and is going to reach his goal."

After a rough 2005 season in Baltimore (.221, 14 HR, 45 RBIs), Sosa did not play in 2006. But at age 38, he was offered a comeback opportunity with the Rangers, the organization that originally signed him as a 16-year-old free agent in 1985. He has repaid the debt by leading the Rangers in home runs (10) and RBIs (37) despite playing only 43 of the team's first 49 games.

But if Sosa is to reach the 600-homer milestone before hometown fans, he'll have to hurry. After Sunday, the Rangers leave on a weeklong road trip to Oakland and Seattle. Tavarez understands the significance of Sosa's next few at-bats.

"It doesn't matter," Tavarez said. "I don't want to be the one [to surrender the milestone home run], but if it happens, it happens. But I'm not going out there thinking, 'I'm going to be the one.'"

Sosa has taken Tavarez deep just once in his career, and that was a solo shot just over a decade ago. He hit his 180th career homer off Tavarez on May 18, 1997, when the right-hander was a youngster pitching for the Giants. Overall, Sosa is 5-for-18 (.278) with two doubles, four walks, three strikeouts and one home run against Tavarez.

Tavarez said he won't avoid Sosa, even at the risk of becoming an historical footnote. He said the only way to approach the slugger is to pitch him aggressively.

"You have to just go after him," Tavarez said. "Even to Manny [Ramirez]. Manny's my best friend, but if I had to do it to Manny, I would do it, because that's the way it is in this game."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Julian Tavarez (3-4, 5.27 ERA)
Tavarez, winner of his last two starts against the Tigers and Yankees is seeking to avenge his first loss of the season to the Rangers. He gave up four runs on six hits and five walks in four innings to lose his April 7 start at Texas, 8-4. He is 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA in five road starts.

TEX: RHP Kameron Loe (1-4, 6.38 ERA)
Loe gave up one run on two hits in one-third of an inning when he faced Boston as a relief pitcher earlier this season. In five career games (two starts) against the Sox, he is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA and has allowed Boston batters to hit .300.

Player to watch
Boston catcher Jason Varitek is 3-for-5 (.600) with a double in his career against Loe.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN

On radio
• WRKO 680, WROL (Español)

Up next
• Monday: Indians (Cliff Lee, 2-1, 5.93) at Red Sox (Curt Schilling, 4-2, 3.94), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 1-4, 6.29) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 7-0, 2.66), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Indians (Paul Byrd, 5-1, 3.81) at Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 7-2, 4.43), 7:05 p.m. ET

Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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