Sosa begins suspension

Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) Sammy Sosa thrilled the fans at Camden Yards on Wednesday with a wonderful display of power during batting practice.

The Chicago Cubs slugger drew loud cheers as he sent one ball after another into the seats.

After that, however, he was done for the day.

On Wednesday, he began a seven-game suspension for using a corked bat, a penalty reduced by one game after his appeal Tuesday.

Sosa refused to talk to the media before Chicago's game against the Baltimore Orioles, but the Cubs seemed satisfied with the ruling.

''I think it's great that they knocked a day off it. He can go serve it, then come back ready to play,'' reliever Mike Remlinger said.

Sosa was ejected from a game on June 3 after cork was discovered in his shattered bat. He contended he accidentally used a bat he usually uses in batting practice.

''I am convinced of the sincerity of Sosa's explanation and his contrition,'' said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer. ''In my opinion, his candor and the promptness of his apology on the night of June 3 were exemplary.

''However, at the end of the day, each player must be accountable for his own equipment complying with the rules, whether the violation is deliberate or inadvertent.''

Sosa, who will be allowed to travel and work out with the team, entered the Chicago clubhouse at 4:13 and immediately dressed for batting practice.

He was cheered by fans in the bleachers as he shagged balls in right field, and he happily tossed a baseball into the seats after making a catch.

''To have him here, taking batting practice with us and going through all the workouts, I think it will be great for everybody,'' Remlinger said.

But Sosa won't be allowed to play in a game until June 18 in Cincinnati.

''Obviously we would have preferred a two-game reduction. We thought we had a case for that,'' Cubs president Andy MacPhail said. ''But I can understand their rationale behind a one-game reduction. They certainly have enough precedent to support their position.''

Because DuPuy believed Sosa made a mistake, he shortened the original eight-game suspension levied by Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline.

''The suspensions over the past 20 years for the use of an illegal bat have ranged from seven to 10 games,'' DuPuy said. ''Given the circumstances of this case, I felt that the lower end of the range was the most appropriate.''

Tests on 76 bats taken from Sosa's locker found no foreign substances, and five of his bats at the Hall of Fame were also determined to be clean.

''No player accused of using a corked bat ever went through the scrutiny that he did afterward, and his story held up,'' MacPhail said.

But now the Cubs must endure another stretch of time without the six-time All Star. Chicago went 10-7 without Sosa last month while he was on the disabled list after surgery on his big toe.

''You deal with people being in and out of the lineup all year, whether it be injuries or whatever,'' Remlinger said. ''It's just a simple matter of going out there and trying to maintain a high level of play.''

It's not as if the suspension caught the Cubs by surprise.

''It's something you knew was coming. It was inevitable,'' Chicago manager Dusty Baker said.

The Cubs and Sosa have accepted their fate and are ready to move on.

''I think he's handled it great. He's handled it straight on no alibis, no excuses,'' Baker said. ''He said, 'Hey, I was wrong. I'll serve my punishment.' A man can't do much more than that and call himself a man. And Sammy handled this like a man.''

In 1998, Sosa's warm smile and outgoing personality captivated the nation as he and Mark McGwire chased Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs in a season.

But Sosa's image has taken a hit this month. Sixty percent of baseball fans believe that Sosa never intended to use a corked bat, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll released Wednesday.

Six in 10 also said they have a favorable view of him, but that's down from the eight in 10 who had a favorable view of Sosa in late 1998.

''Over time, like everything else, this will be one of those things that gradually fades from our memories,'' MacPhail said.

Sosa was replaced in the cleanup spot by Moises Alou. Tom Goodwin took over in right field.

''I'm not Sammy Sosa,'' Goodwin said.

Sosa has 505 career homers; Goodwin has 24. Of course, no one on the Cubs has numbers that can compare to Sosa's.

''He's one of the greatest players in the game. You can't replace him,'' outfielder Corey Patterson said. ''He's the best player on this team and has been a big part of this franchise for a long time. We have to win as many games as we can without him, and when he comes back, things will be a lot better and maybe back to normal.''

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