GM, Baker haven't talked to slugger

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry hopes the team and Sammy Sosa can patch up their differences once spring training begins next month.

Sosa left the clubhouse early without permission before last season's final game, disappointing teammates and drawing a fine from the team.

"He did a wrongful thing the last day of the season. He missed a game without an excuse and he made some comments publicly about Dusty," Hendry said Friday, referring to manager Dusty Baker.

Speaking at the team's winter convention, Hendry wants the Cubs to put any discord behind. Sosa's name has been linked to trade rumors throughout the offseason.

"Really there is no reason once camp starts and Sammy comes out with a good effort and we get off to a good start, there is no reason the story should continue," Hendry said. "Professional athletes are like the rest of us, we all make mistakes and we live in a forgiving society. If handled the right way, with the right amount of contrition, you can put it behind you."

Sosa was fined $87,400 -- one day's salary -- for leaving the clubhouse shortly after the final game started. The Cubs had already been eliminated from the playoffs.

He criticized Baker the next day, saying all blame was put on him for the Cubs' failures. In a later interview, Sosa said he was humiliated by being dropped to sixth in the batting order.

Hendry hasn't talked to Sosa and neither has Baker, who told reporters earlier in the week he's not sure what he did to offend Sosa.

"People seem to think that there was a problem, and that was the reason Sammy left," Baker said. "I don't think those two go hand in hand. It was news to me. When I talk to him, maybe I'll find out something happened that I didn't realize had happened."

Sosa was sidelined for a month last season because of a back problem brought on by a sneezing attack. The Cubs lost seven of their final nine games in a collapse that cost them the NL wild card.

Sosa batted just .253 -- his lowest average since 1997 -- and hit 35 homers and 80 RBI in 126 games, ending his run of 100-RBI seasons at nine.

Sosa, who has 574 career homers, also heard some unfamiliar boos at Wrigley Field last season.

He has a $17 million salary this year, and the team has an $18 million option for 2006 with a $4.5 million buyout. If Sosa is traded, his 2006 salary becomes guaranteed and a 2007 club option is added at $19 million with a $4.5 million buyout.

Hendry said Friday he's planning for Sosa to be the starting right fielder.

"If we clear the air on this whole deal in spring training, regardless if anybody thinks he needs to apologize or if he needs to apologize, I think if we all clear the air, we can move on to more important things," second baseman Todd Walker said.