CHICAGO The bats have been checked and the interviews done. Now all Sammy Sosa can do is wait to see what his punishment will be for using a corked bat.
Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline, met with Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker and general manager Jim Hendry at Wrigley Field before returning to New York on Thursday afternoon. A decision could come as early as Friday.
''There's really nothing we can speculate until we hear from the commissioner or Bob,'' Hendry said Thursday. ''Hopefully we'll get some news tomorrow. Whether that becomes in effect or whether it's something you can appeal will probably be determined by what we hear from the commissioner's office.
''I'm sure he is going to have a penalty for it, and obviously the team is going to suffer for it, too,'' Hendry added. ''But hopefully it won't be too severe and we'll be able to survive without him.''
Sosa was in the clubhouse during Watson's visit, and Cubs officials initially thought the two had talked. But Sosa said after the game he hadn't spoken with Watson.
''I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm prepared for anything,'' Sosa said Thursday.
A piece of cork was found just above the handle in Sosa's bat Tuesday night when it shattered after he grounded out in the first inning of the Chicago Cubs' 3-2 victory. The superstar slugger insists it was a one-time mistake, saying he accidentally pulled out a bat he uses to put on home run displays for fans in batting practice.
The Hall of Fame ran the five Sosa bats it has through X-rays and CT scans, and none showed signs of cork or anything else that would violate baseball rules.
''We felt it was important to remove any doubt about the integrity of the five bats in our collection,'' Hall spokesman Jeff Idelson said Thursday in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Baseball officials also tested 76 of Sosa's bats they confiscated from his locker and found no cork in any of them. The bats have been returned to Sosa.
''The sad part about the whole thing is that he had 70-some bats and it's like you still don't believe it. That's what's unfair,'' Baker said. ''He was wrong with that one bat. It was a bad decision.''
And Sosa will have to pay for it. Other players who've used corked bats have been suspended for up to 10 games, and that precedent is expected to play a part in Watson's decision.
Watson was at Wrigley Field early Thursday, and met with Hendry, Baker, Cubs president Andy MacPhail and clubhouse manager Tom Hellmann. Sosa said he didn't speak with Watson, who left Wrigley before the game without speaking to reporters.
Baker said Watson didn't ask him questions so much as explain the process.
''I called him Judge Dread. He thought it was pretty funny,'' Baker said. ''He just wanted to let me know that they're going to try to come up with a quick decision, a fair decision. Whatever happens after that it's up to Sammy and the organization, if we want to appeal it.''
Sosa is all but certain to appeal especially with the New York Yankees coming to town this weekend for a much-hyped series. Not only is it the teams' first meeting at Wrigley since the 1938 World Series, but Roger Clemens will go for his 300th career win Saturday against fellow Texan Kerry Wood.
The games Saturday and Sunday will be broadcast nationally, with 90 percent of the country seeing the Clemens-Wood matchup on Fox.
''I think the world would be disappointed if he couldn't play this weekend,'' Baker said. ''Go talk to ESPN and Fox and ask if they want Sammy to play this weekend.''
But after baseball announces Sosa's penalty and the Yankees have left town, the Cubs hope life will return to normal.
Sosa's face has been splashed across the country for the past three days as if he's on a wanted poster. The national media has flocked to Wrigley as if it's the postseason, and the parking lots outside the ballpark are jammed with TV trucks.
Columnists, fans and fellow players are all weighing in on his guilt or innocence and what it will mean for his reputation.
''I feel very bad for having used that bat, but my conscience is clean,'' he said. ''I'm not a criminal nor someone who intended to deceive or take advantage of others.''
But he's being treated like one, Baker said.
''There were more people surrounding the clubhouse than the Unabomber's house up in the hills,'' Baker said. ''The act was a crime as far as baseball was concerned. I wish they'd treat it like a misdemeanor instead of a felony.''
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