Sosa spent the final day of his seven-game suspension, reduced from eight, asking fans to forgive and forget that he used a corked bat.
The embattled slugger took batting practice with the team before Tuesday’s 2-1, 10-inning loss to Cincinnati. He will be back in the lineup Wednesday.
Sosa got a warm reception from fans during batting practice at the Reds’ new ballpark, where he hit career homer No. 500 on April 4. There were no taunts or cork jokes.
“I want to make it clear that hopefully they forget,” Sosa said. “I have to deal with that for the rest of my life, no question. But I’m only human. I’m not the only guy in this world that made a mistake.
“I’ll say it again: Hopefully they’ll forget and just let me continue to make people happy.”
Cubs manager Dusty Baker expects the reception to be less supportive in other ballparks.
“It’s going to be tough, but it comes with the territory,” Baker said. “Hopefully it helps him focus even more, and makes him want to beat them even worse and increases his concentration.”
Sosa explained that he used a corked bat in batting practice to put on a show for fans, but mistakenly took it to the plate during a game. The rest of his bats were tested, and no cork was found.
Regardless, his reputation has taken a beating.
Other major leaguers wondered aloud about Sosa’s judgment in using a corked bat. Reds pitcher Danny Graves was one of the more outspoken, saying he was disappointed, disgusted and disturbed.
“To me, it’s a dead issue,” Graves said Tuesday. “He served his time. There’s no need to dwell on it. I said all I need to say about it right after it happened. Some people believe him, some people don’t. I’m not going to say what I believe.”
The Cubs went 3-4 without Sosa, who was just starting to regain his stroke when he was suspended. He missed 17 games in May after having the nail removed from his right big toe, which was interfering with his swing.
He had a six-game hitting streak when he broke his bat. During his suspension, he’s had to work on his swing in batting cages and pregame practice.
“Hopefully the work he’s done at home will keep him on the same course,” Baker said.
STANDINGS: Cubs - 1st place, NL Central. Reds - 4th place, 4 GB, NL Central.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Kerry Wood (5-5, 3.26 ERA). The right-hander has just one win in his last eight starts, allowing at least five earned runs in three of his last five outings. He was roughed up at Toronto on Friday, allowing five runs and seven hits—including a season-worst three homers—over six innigs of a 5-1 defeat. Wood has been impressive against the Reds in his career, going 8-2 with a 2.75 ERA in 12 starts.
REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Jimmy Haynes (1-5, 7.27 ERA). Haynes won for the first time since last Sept. 24 on Friday, beating the Phillies 15-1. He gave up one run and three hits in his second career complete game. He is 3-4 with a 6.00 ERA in 12 career starts against the Cubs.
SEASON SERIES: Cubs, 5-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cubs - OF Moises Alou is hitting .500 (9-for-18) in his career against RHP Haynes. … OF Sosa has only six homers in 45 games and hasn’t hit one since May 1, a stretch of 66 at-bats. … RHP Wood has 104 strikeouts in 78 1-3 career innings against Cincinnati. Reds - OF Ken Griffey is 2-for-10 in his career against RHP Wood. … 1B Sean Casey is 4-for-20 in his career against RHP Wood. … Left-handed hitters are hitting .329 against RHP Haynes.
INJURIES: Cubs - INF Hee Seop Choi (concussion), 15-day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Dave Veres (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL. Reds - INF Ryan Freel (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP John Riedling (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Luke Prokopec (elbow), 60-day DL.