|Wednesday, June 11
Updated: June 13, 8:57 PM ET
Corked bat-related penalty reduced by one game
ESPN.com news services
NEW YORK -- Sammy Sosa's suspension for using a corked bat was reduced Wednesday to seven games by Major League Baseball, which accepted his explanation that he simply made a mistake.
Sosa will begin serving the suspension Wednesday night. His appeal was heard Tuesday in Baltimore, where the Chicago Cubs began a three-game interleague series against the Orioles.
Sosa did not accompany the Cubs to Toronto for a three-game series that began Friday. He returned to Chicago from Baltimore on Thursday night after sitting out the first three games of his suspension.
"I am convinced of the sincerity of Sosa's explanation and his contrition," Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said. "In my opinion, his candor and the promptness of his apology on the night of June 3 were exemplary.
"However, at the end of the day, each player must be accountable for his own equipment complying with the rules, whether the violation is deliberate or inadvertent."
Sosa, one of the game's great home run hitters, was suspended for eight games Friday by Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline, but the appeal allowed him to play until the ruling was made.
The quick ruling will allow Sosa to play in all three games of the Cubs' interleague series against the White Sox at Wrigley June 20-22, so he won't miss a single date at home -- including the Cubs' two hottest tickets of the year, the Yankees and White Sox.
Sosa was ejected from a game against Tampa Bay on June 3 when his bat shattered after hitting a ground ball and umpires discovered cork halfway up the handle of the bat.
Tests on 76 bats taken from Sosa's locker found no foreign substances, and five of his bats at the Hall of Fame were also determined to be clean. Sosa claims he mistakenly grabbed a bat he uses for batting practice and used it in the game.
"It's been a tough week for me," he said Tuesday. "Once again, I want to apologize to everybody for the mistake that I made."
Chicago went 10-7 without Sosa last month while he was on the disabled list after undergoing surgery on his big toe. But they will need him in the lineup next week, when they follow a three-game interleague series against Toronto with a four-game road test against NL Central foe Cincinnati.
"Let's get it over with now, so when we go play Cincinnati we'll have everybody that we need," Cubs reliever Mike Remlinger said Tuesday.
Sosa has gone 66 at-bats since his last home run May 1. But his value to Chicago transcends home runs; he's scored 32 runs and has 27 RBI in 45 games.
"Obviously, Sammy is a huge part of this ballclub," first baseman Eric Karros said. "The sooner he can focus entirely on what happens on the field, the better off we'll be as well."
The discovery that Sosa used a corked bat sparked a national debate about cheating in sports. He's hardly the first player to get caught or admit using a corked bat, but he's certainly the biggest name.
Wilton Guerrero, the last player caught with a corked bat before Sosa, was penalized eight games.
Many players were skeptical of Sosa's explanation, but he has received strong support from his home fans, drawing cheers as he made his usual sprint to right field.
Sosa helped baseball's image in the last five seasons, with his infectious smile, buoyant personality and prodigious homers. His duel with Mark McGwire in 1998 captivated the nation.
He is the only player to hit 60 or more homers in three seasons, with 66 in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001. He's 17th on the career list with 505 homers. And at 34, many believe he'll have a chance to surpass Hank Aaron's record of 755.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com senior writer Jayson Stark was used in this report.