Sosa and the Cubs look to hold on to first place in the NL Central when they begin a three-game series at Wrigley Field against the last-place Devil Rays.
Sosa was activated from the 15-day disabled list Friday after having a nail removed from his right big toe and missing 17 games. The Cubs went 10-7 in his absence, and were able to stay in first place.
In a three-game series against the second-place Houston Astros, Sosa went 2-for-15 with eight strikeouts as the Cubs dropped two of three to see their lead in the division shrink to one game.
“Sometimes people see you go through a tough time, they think you’re finished, but you’re not,” Sosa said. “Every good player goes through a little tough time and you got to survive. I’ve been out for three weeks and my timing is not there yet. I don’t feel comfortable yet. It could take a couple more games.”
Sosa will try to get through his problems against a Tampa Bay team that is tied for the fourth-worst ERA in the majors at 5.30. He also performs well in interleague play, having the most RBIs with 88 and tying for the second-most homers with 30.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has never had much success in interleague play. The Devil Rays have an AL-worst 35-53 record against the National League, scoring a league-low 376 runs.
Tampa Bay lost three of four to the defending World Series champion Anaheim Angels this past weekend, and has dropped 10 of 14 overall.
“We’ve had a couple of chances with men on base the past few games and haven’t done it,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “I don’t know what to tell you. I really don’t. Let’s just hope it gets better.”
STANDINGS: Devil Rays - 5th place, 11 1/2 GB, AL East. Cubs - 1st place, NL Central.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Jeremi Gonzalez (2-1, 3.50 ERA). The right-hander lost his first start on May 17 after being recalled and put in Tampa Bay’s rotation. Gonzalez, however, bounced back to win his next two outings, including allowing four earned runs over five innings in a 6-4 win over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Mark Prior (6-2, 2.82 ERA). Prior rebounded from his first loss in a month by allowing four runs and eight hits over 7 2-3 innings in a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday. The right-hander, who is third in the NL with 83 strikeouts, has fanned 31 over his last four starts.
2002 INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Devil Rays - 7-11; Cubs - 6-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Devil Rays - RHP Al Levine has not allowed a run in 17 1-3 innings, a team record for relievers. Rolando Arrojo owns the overall team record, throwing 18 scoreless innings in 1998. … Tampa Bay has hit a major league-low 73 homers in interleague play. … RHP Gonzalez made his major league debut with the Cubs in 1997, and went 18-16 with a 4.71 ERA in 43 starts over two seasons. Cubs - LF Moises Alou’s career .352 batting average in interleague play is fourth-highest all-time. … OF Lenny Harris needs one hit to reach 1,000 in his career. … RHP Prior is 2-1 with a shutout and 2.51 ERA in four starts at Wrigley Field this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devil Rays - 9-18 on the road; Cubs - 14-13 at home.
INJURIES: Devil Rays - SS Rey Ordonez (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Seth McClung (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Parris (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Bobby Seay (shoulder), 15-day DL. Cubs - LHP Mark Guthrie (elbow), 15-day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Dave Veres (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL.