Sammy Sosa’s big bat has brought him fame, fortune and Hall of Fame statistics. His corked bat has landed him in a world of trouble.
Sosa was ejected in the first inning of Tuesday’s 3-2 win after umpires found cork in his shattered bat.
The Cubs’ All-Star outfielder admitted to having a corked bat, but claimed he had never before used it in a game.
“What happened today was something that I didn’t mean to happen,” Sosa said. “I took the wrong bat out there to play in the game. It happened. I use that bat for batting practice. I don’t use it in a game. I take the blame for it. It was a mistake. I know that.”
Sosa broke his bat with a grounder to second that at first appeared to drive in a run. But crew chief Tim McClelland gathered with the other three umpires to examine the bat. The run was wiped off the board and Sosa was ejected as he stood in the dugout.
Cork inside a wooden bat is thought to help players hit the ball farther and is against baseball rules. Several players have been caught using altered bats in the past, including Albert Belle, Wilton Guerrero, Chris Sabo, Billy Hatcher and Graig Nettles. All but Nettles were suspended.
Sosa could face a lengthy suspension for the infraction.
“I don’t think it’s going to change anything I’ve done because its something that I did by mistake,” said Sosa, who reached 500 career homers earlier this season. “I’m a very strong guy and I don’t need to use that (cork).”
Sosa just came off the disabled last Friday after having the nail taken off his right big toe forced him to miss 17 games.
Entering Tuesday, he was just 2-for-15 in his three games since coming off the DL, including one five-strikeout game against Houston in which he also had the game-winning single.
Sosa hasn’t hit a homer since May 1 and his power numbers have dropped drastically since he was beaned April 20 by Pittsburgh’s Salomon Torres.
He has just six homers this season and 24 RBIs, while batting .285.
The Devil Rays have lost three straight and 10 of 13.
STANDINGS: Devil Rays - 5th place, 11 1/2 GB, AL East. Cubs - 1st place, NL Central.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Victor Zambrano (1-3, 5.70 ERA). The right-hander gave up two runs and six hits over 5 2-3 innings Thursday in a 2-1 loss to Anaheim. It was his first start since moving back into the starting rotation.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Shawn Estes (5-4, 5.73 ERA). The southpaw gave up eight earned runs over 4 1-3 innings in a 9-1 loss to Houston on Friday. Estes had gone 4-0 with a 3.06 ERA in his first five starts in May before Friday’s meltdown.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Devil Rays - 0-1; Cubs - 1-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Devil Rays - LHP Joe Kennedy was put on the 15-day DL Tuesday because of tendinitis in his left shoulder. Kennedy is 3-5 with a 5.88 ERA in 12 starts. … Tampa Bay selected high school OF Delmon Young with the first pick in Tuesday’s draft. He is the younger brother of Detroit OF Dmitri Young. … OF Crawford is tied for second in the AL with 14 stolen bases. Cubs - OF Sosa has the most 60-homer seasons (three) in major league history, hitting 66 in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001. … LHP Mark Guthrie was activated from the DL Tuesday. RHP Juan Cruz was sent to Triple-A Iowa to make roster space. … Chicago picked OF Ryan Harvey of Dunedin High School in Florida with the sixth pick in Tuesday’s baseball draft. Harvey hit .400 as a senior and is regarded as a five-tool player.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devil Rays - 9-19 on the road; Cubs - 15-13 at home.
INJURIES: Devil Rays - LHP Kennedy (shoulder), 15-day DL; 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 Will Ohman (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Dave Veres (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL.