Slugger hurt back while sneezing

Updated: May 19, 2004, 12:37 AM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Turns out, Sammy Sosa's injury is nothing to sneeze at.

The Chicago Cubs' star has a sprained ligament in his lower back and is probably headed to the disabled list.

Sosa missed Sunday's game in San Diego after two violent sneezes brought on back spasms. He was examined by Dr. Michael Schaefer, the Cubs' orthopedic specialist, before Tuesday's game against the Giants, and tests revealed the sprained ligament.

"He's going to receive an epidural tonight to calm down some of the inflammation and lower back pain," general manager Jim Hendry said. "It's pretty certain he'll be missing a couple of weeks. So it looks like it's a (disabled list) situation."

There were no problems with any discs, Hendry added.

"It's something that doesn't seem to be long-term," Hendry said. "But he's not going to be ready to go in two or three days."

While Sosa missed the game, another slugger returned. Barry Bonds was back in the lineup after missing last weekend's series against Pittsburgh because of back spasms. Giants manager Felipe Alou made up four lineup cards before the game, with Bonds playing in one of them, and waited to see how the left fielder felt during batting practice.

Second baseman Ray Durham, who was on the disabled list from April 28 until last Thursday with a strained knee, also was in the lineup.

"If you have back problems or a history of spasms ... this is not the weather you want," Alou said. "But we need these guys."

Sosa's injury is the latest setback for the Cubs, who are already without right-hander Mark Prior, reliever Mike Remlinger, second baseman Mark Grudzielanek and shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Kerry Wood missed his scheduled start Sunday because of tightness in his triceps.

"There's no sense hanging your head. You've got to deal with it," Hendry said. "We'll work our way through it. Hopefully, by early June, we'll be healthy once and for all."

This isn't the first time Sosa has had back problems. He missed nine games in late 2002 with a strained back after colliding with teammate Mark Bellhorn while chasing a popup.

And as hard as Sosa swings, it's bound to put stress on his back.

"It's a very unnatural movement to swing a bat the way that we swing bats," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We're made to go up and down, we're not made to torque the way guys do side to side. I'm surprised in baseball we don't have more back problems."

But Sosa is one of the most durable players in the game. He's made only four trips to the DL in his 16-year career, and his stint last season was his first since 1996. Sosa missed 20 days last year after having the nail on his right big toe removed.

"We all know how he is. He's the least likely guy to be in the training room. He's the least likely guy to want to see a doctor," Hendry said. "So if he had some lower back discomfort from time to time, honestly we don't know about it.

"He felt a little better yesterday and not much better today. Even as difficult as it is for him to want to see somebody, he knew he needed medical attention."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press