06/11/2003 8:01 PM ET
Cubs notes: Who's in right?
Cubs unhappy with delay in apprehending fan Tuesday
BALTIMORE -- OK, Sammy Sosa is going to sit for seven games. Now what do the Chicago Cubs do?
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
On Wednesday, the first day of Sosa's seven-game suspension for using a corked bat, Tom Goodwin started in right field. Troy O'Leary, who started in right field during the 14 games Sosa spent nursing a sore big toe, also could see some playing time there. Barring rainouts, Sosa will be eligible to return June 18 at Cincinnati.
The Cubs must play a man short during Sosa's absence. If ever there was a good time for the Cubs to lose their star player, it's now.
"Where it becomes thin is in the National League parks where I've got to double-switch or I have to pinch-hit for the pitcher," said Cubs manager Dusty Baker, who will have to scramble for two games against Cincinnati. "If this is going to happen, this is the most opportune time for it to happen in the American League when you don't use pinch-hitters as much and you don't have to pinch-hit for your pitchers."
The Cubs will play two games in Baltimore and three games in Toronto without Sosa.
"If there is a better time, this is the best time," Baker said. "It's not a very good time with us going into one of the hottest offensive teams around in the Toronto Blue Jays. They can hit. They're scoring some big time runs. That's not a very opportune time for us either."
Moises Alou started as the designated hitter for the second consecutive game and will likely be the DH Saturday and Sunday in Toronto. Alou has a sore right leg, but can still play in the outfield. David Kelton, called up Sunday, made his first Major League start in left field Wednesday.
"I'm trying to match up guys where they're most likely to succeed," Baker said.
The Cubs really don't have a backup right fielder.
"Goodwin's more of a center fielder because he doesn't have a right fielder's arm," Baker said. "The one thing I don't want to do is move guys all the way around and have two or three guys where they haven't played positions. That ball will find you, if you know what I mean."
Turn the page: The Cubs will definitely miss Sosa but are eager to move on.
"He's a big part of this team," Cubs pitcher Mark Prior said. "The entire offensive lineup changes when he's in there. It changes the game plan for the other pitchers and the way they want to pitch our guys. It'll be tough without him. We've done it before. We'll have to do it again."
"I think this is a setback," Cubs center fielder Corey Patterson said. "He's one of the greatest players in the game. Every team needs a Sammy Sosa on their team."
The Cubs did survive for three weeks without Sosa, going 10-7 while he was on the disabled list.
"We were fortunate to be able to do that," Patterson said. "But in the back of your mind, you wonder how long you can do it."
Cubs pitcher Mike Remlinger said the team has put the corked bat incident behind them.
"For us, I think it's been over since last week," Remlinger said. "It's just been an issue as to how long the suspension was going to be and when it's going to start. Having him out recently, we know that we can play without him in the lineup."
How are the Cubs dealing with it?
"I think we have a lot of really professional players on this team," Remlinger said. "I think whatever adversity happens, we handle it pretty well. Ideally that's something that will help us maintain the level we've played at this year -- and hopefully a little better than what we've done."
Prior said Sosa will now feel like the starting pitchers do -- although for a longer period of time.
"It'll probably be tough," Prior said. "It's tough for starting pitchers who sit out for four games between starts. It's not easy when you're a competitor and have to sit out. I'm sure he'll find something to do like pitchers do to fill the void.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'm glad it's over with or it's on its way of being over with. He still has a long way to go. That's a personal battle that he'll have to deal with and as a team, we just have to be here to support him through it."
Baker is just hoping all the media attention dies down.
"He's handled it straight on, no alibis, no excuses. He's said, 'Hey, I was wrong.' He said, 'I'll serve my punishment.' A man can't do much more than that and call himself a man. To me, Sammy handled this like a man."
-- Cubs manager Dusty Baker
"Hopefully seven days from now, I won't have to talk about it," he said. "I'll be relieved when I don't have all these cameras in my face talking about it."
Sosa, who declined to talk to the media Wednesday, has dealt with the situation well, Baker said.
"He's handled it straight on, no alibis, no excuses," Baker said. "He's said, 'Hey, I was wrong.' He said, 'I'll serve my punishment.' A man can't do much more than that and call himself a man. To me, Sammy handled this like a man."
Fan support: The Cubs were not pleased with the amount of time it took security to get to the man who approached Sosa in right field during the eighth inning of Tuesday's game.
"It was kind of scary in a way," Prior said. "He just kind of sat there and you didn't know what he was going to do. We saw from the dugout that he had stuff taped up on him. With all that's gone on, it was definitely a scary sight."
Baker was more blunt.
"That's not tip-top security," he said. "Everybody sort of took their time getting out there. You didn't know if the guy was going to self-ignite himself or whatever. You don't know what his intentions were, especially in lieu of what happened in the White Sox park (when the fan ran onto the field and attacked an umpire). It didn't seem like anybody was in a hurry to apprehend him."
Sosa can probably expect more taunting when he returns.
"That's something he'll have to put up with, some fans who might be angry or think he cheated or whatever," Prior said. "He'll have to keep doing what he has to do and play his game. All we can do is support him."
Bright spot: One player the Cubs will be counting on during Sosa's absence is Corey Patterson. The 23-year-old was batting .328 with 12 homers, 46 RBIs and 10 stolen bases entering Wednesday's game. He's on pace for a 31-homer, 120-RBIs season in just his second full year.
In his last 10 games, Patterson was 17-for-42 with two homers, four triples and five RBIs. He's been hitting third since May 31. Does that make a difference?
"I don't think so," said Patterson, who started the season batting sixth. "I keep the same approach, no matter where I'm batting. As far as batting third, I may get pitched a little differently with Sammy batting behind me. They're not going to fool around too much."
Patterson notched his seventh triple Tuesday night.
"I think doubles are better. They're easier on your body," Patterson said. "But when you hit a triple, go ahead and do it. It makes it that much easier for the next hitter, especially if there's no outs or one out. You always keep that in the back of your mind."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.