06/06/2003 9:25 PM ET
Sosa says world has not ended
Slugger is ready to concentrate on hitting again
Baseball's Best: Yanks/Cubs in 1938 World Series
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- If bad things happen in threes, then Sammy Sosa should have good days ahead.
He was plunked on the head April 20, surviving a horrific hit that shattered his helmet. He was sidelined with a sore toe that placed him on the disabled list May 10 for the first time since 1996. And now he's had to deal with a corked bat controversy.
"I know how to deal with everything," Sosa said after going 1-for-4 in the Cubs' 5-3 loss Friday to the New York Yankees. "I'm a tough man, I have a strong mind. That's something nobody can touch."
And he's starting to swing better. Problem is, Sosa will be sidelined again when he serves his suspension for using a corked bat.
Major League Baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson issued an eight-game suspension for Sosa, but the Cubs slugger appealed the ruling and is eligible to play until he has a hearing.
His teammates are trying to put it behind him.
"That's what we've done," Cubs center fielder Corey Patterson said. "It's over with, you've got to turn the page. Sammy's back, he's said his apologies, we all make mistakes. He's definitely a big part of this team and a reason we're doing so well today. We're looking forward to putting it behind us."
Cubs manager Dusty Baker sees Sosa improving every day at the plate since he was activated from the disabled list Friday.
"He's swinging the bat better every day," Baker said. "I thought he got that ball to right field (in the sixth inning Friday). He's swinging better. He's catching up to the fastball. His pitch selection has been better, his head is staying on the ball."
Sosa thought he had connected on that ball in the sixth and did a little home run hop out of the batter's box.
"Yeah, I saw it," Yankees pitcher David Wells said. "It's all right. I hung a curveball and he got underneath it. It's still an out. It's kind of cool to watch it."
Sosa said it's just a matter of time.
"No question about it, I'm starting to feel more comfortable," Sosa said. "It's going to come. There are a lot of games left."
He hasn't homered since May 1 and hasn't sent the ball hawks outside Wrigley Field scurrying for a souvenir since April 17. That's a long time between home runs.
"That's going to come," Sosa said. "I'm just trying to get my timing."
"Through correct repetition, you get your stroke back," Baker said. "He's swinging the bat a lot better. He's been through a period where he got hit in the head, then he was out missing time and then he missed more time with his toe. It seems like he hasn't been in there for a long period of time to get it back.
"Now he's going to miss some more time (because of the suspension) and it's going to take some time to get it back again. I'll be glad when all of this is over with and a couple weeks from now he'll get back to Sammy."
Can he? Can Sosa return to his 60-homer form? Will he start launching balls out of the ballpark again?
"There's no doubt in my mind," Baker said. "You don't just lose bombing overnight. He'd be bombing now if he hadn't had all the things happening to him.
"It's been a tough year for Sammy," Baker said. "He had three things that happened to him in a short period of time. Hopefully this is the end of the bunches and he'll be back to Sammy."
Before Friday's game, Sosa received a copy of resolution passed by the U.S. House, which honored him for hitting 500 home runs and commended him for being a role model for Latinos.
Sosa was greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos in the pregame festivities and said the honor was great, adding, "Believe me, the world's not ending yet. I'm still here."
On Saturday, Sosa will face Roger Clemens, who served up the slugger's first home run way back in 1989. Sosa was a raw, skinny ballplayer with the Texas Rangers. Clemens was with the Boston Red Sox. It was 504 home runs ago for Sosa.
"That was '89. That was my first one," Sosa said. "I was a kid."
Clemens will be aiming for his 300th career win.
"For Mr. Roger Clemens it's his 300th. For us, it's just another game," Sosa said. "Our team is thinking the same way I'm thinking, go out and play the game the way it is. We'll just go out there and try to win the ballgame. That's what we'll try to do."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.