Sammy Sosa made his return to the club that first drafted him in 1985 yesterday, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jim Reeves suggests the Rangers’ spring training invitee could use a hand dealing with the inevitable PED inquiries.

Sammy sounded positively Mark McGwire-like in insisting that he didn’t want to talk about the past, becoming evasive and even slightly combative at times.

“Today it’s about Sammy Sosa and Texas… I mean it’s about the Texas Rangers and Sammy Sosa,” Sammy stammered, remembering that it’s supposed to be team first, then Sammy. “Today I don’t want to talk about Joe Blow or anybody else because my life has been too busy lately and I don’t want to go into other people’s business.

“I don’t have to convince nobody. I’m a baseball player. Whatever the individual person is thinking outside, whether it’s good or bad, I don’t have no control over that. You know what I mean?”

‘d hoped and somehow expected Sosa to be better prepared to answer the steroids question after a year away from the game to think about it. I thought he would tell us that he understands why the questions have to be asked but that he didn’t do steroids. Remind us that he’s never failed a steroids test. Point out that he’ll be tested just like every other player in the game now.

“I understand what you’re saying and everybody knows that, but let’s talk about baseball, let’s talk about 2007 and the talent we have in Texas and what we can do this year,” he said.

“All those things I want to accomplish, I want to talk about that. I don’t want to talk about whatever happened in the Congress, or whatever. This is not my problem. I have to make the team.”

Oh, but it is his problem and will be all season, assuming he makes the team. It’s part of what he must deal with mentally in returning to baseball. Answer the questions as best he can and even reporters will understand and eventually let it alone. But to dance around them only leaves the questions hanging, unanswered.

Given the questionable status of Orlando Hernandez and the uncertainty surrounding Pedro Martinez’ return,’s Buster Olney delivers his best Paul Caporino impersonation and bemoans the lack of depth in the Mets’ starting rotation.

The Mets don’t need a No. 4- or No. 5-type starter; they’ve got plenty of candidates for those roles, from young prospects Mike Pelfrey and Philip Humber to veterans Aaron Sele and Chan Ho Park. What they need is someone who has a chance to be a frontline starter or at least a middling starter — someone who can eat innings and consistently contribute a solid six. It’s unlikely that the only team with excess starting pitching — the Phillies, with Jon Lieber — would even consider making a trade with the Mets; if New York wanted Lieber, it would have to try to work through a third team, but you have to assume that Philadelphia GM Pat Gillick would be very careful to make sure that wouldn’t happen.

So what’s next? Well, the Mets may have to wait until some teams start to fall out of the race in late-May and June, and veteran starters become available. Depending on the standings in June, the Mets could take a look at Mark Buehrle of the White Sox, Jake Westbrook of the Indians, or the Astros’ Jason Jennings, three pitchers who will be eligible for free agency after next season.

But wanting and getting are two different things, and even if the Mets were to target someone like the Marlins’ Dontrelle Willis, they would have to bid against multiple teams to make a deal, and a lot of other organizations have better, deeper farm systems to trade from.

While hailing Tim Linecum’s first workout of the spring, the SF Chronicle’s Henry Schulman reports Barry Zito drilled the Sultan of Surly during BP yesterday. “Bonds had fun with it, feigning a charge to the mound,” wrote Schulman, no doubt mindful that Zito is the one guy on the Giants roster the soon-to-be-HR king couldn’t get away with beating to death.