Chicago Cubs superstar Sammy Sosa pleaded his case before Major League Baseball chief operating officer Robert DuPuy in a hearing yesterday at the Marriott Waterfront to appeal his eight-game suspension for using a corked bat last week.
DuPuy is expected to announce today whether he will reduce the penalty, and Sosa likely will be out of the Cubs' lineup for the rest of the series against the Orioles at Camden Yards.
For obvious reasons, the Cubs are hoping the suspension will be reduced enough to allow Sosa to play at least one or two games of next week's series against the National League Central rival Cincinnati Reds.
Team officials argued that Sosa should get some deference, considering that former Oriole Albert Belle was suspended for only seven games after appealing his penalty for using a corked bat while playing for the Cleveland Indians in 1994.
Belle's teammates made the situation worse by stealing the bat from the umpires room at Comiskey Park. Sosa admitted his culpability almost immediately and apologized again yesterday at a brief news conference.
Sosa didn't take questions from the media. His statement consisted of eight sentences, including "Good afternoon everybody," and "Thank you."
"I'm waiting for the decision that they are going to make," he said. "Whatever punishment that they are going to do, I am going to accept it. It's been a tough week for me. Once again, I want to apologize to everybody for the mistake that I made. And I just wanted to say `Thank you' to all the fans and everybody who supported me and motivate me to continue."
Sosa said last week that he used the bat by mistake and usually saves it for batting practice to entertain the crowd.
"The issue now is whether people believe him or not," said former Oriole Cal Ripken. "It seems plausible to me, especially when all his bats go out and none come back with any signs of [cork].
"It's plausible for me to think that, from a curious standpoint, during batting practice he's going to mess around with it. He's always been a showman during batting practice. I'm a big Sammy Sosa fan. I believe his explanation and I look forward to him going out there and continuing to play.
"The sad part is, there are huge ramifications for making a mistake like that. It's probably bothered him, and bothered a lot of people, because now there's a shadow of doubt cast over his career. It could be a one-time incident, but he has to bear the burden and live with that."
Bigbie tests shoulder
Outfielder Larry Bigbie, making his first injury rehabilitation start yesterday at Triple-A Ottawa, went 1-for-4 in a 4-1 loss to Charlotte.
Bigbie's rehab assignment can last up to 20 days, and Orioles manager Mike Hargrove indicated yesterday that he'll probably use most, if not all, of it. Bigbie is recovering from a right shoulder strain.
Pitcher Rodrigo Lopez apparently won't make another start in the minors before the Orioles activate him. Lopez, on the disabled list with a strained left side muscle, struck out 13 in 6 1/3 scoreless innings in Monday's game at Double-A Bowie.
With normal rest, Lopez couldn't pitch again until Saturday. "We haven't talked about when to plug him in or whose spot to plug him into," Hargrove said.
It's possible Lopez will take Pat Hentgen's turn on Sunday. Hentgen, who allowed four runs in seven innings last night, replaced Lopez in the rotation after the injury.
Another of the injured Orioles, second baseman Jerry Hairston, said he'll leave for Arizona on June 22 and continue his rehab at a medical facility with an underwater treadmill.
Hairston, who had a pin inserted in his broken right foot May 23, is aiming for an Aug. 15 return to the Orioles, and estimates he'll need 20 to 30 at-bats in the minors before being activated.
Three players with Single-A Frederick and four from lower Single-A Delmarva have been named to their respective All-Star teams.
First baseman Mike Huggins and outfielder Woody Cliffords were chosen as starters in the Carolina League game, while third baseman Tripper Johnson will represent the Keys as a reserve. Delmarva infielder Mike Done, outfielder Val Majewski and pitchers John Maine and Scott Rice were selected to the South Atlantic League team.
Majewski won't play because of a stress fracture in his right femur. He led the league with 48 RBIs.
Around the horn