Cubs slugger put on 15-day disabled list

Updated: May 20, 2004, 4:47 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Sammy Sosa gingerly stepped down the stairs to the home clubhouse Wednesday, his bad back causing him considerable pain.

"I feel like I'm 95 years old right now," he said.

Sammy Sosa
Right Field
Chicago Cubs
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM HR RBI R SB AVG
35 10 24 22 0 .291

The star was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a sprained ligament in his lower back and the Cubs called up outfielder Jason Dubois from Triple-A Iowa.

Sosa missed Sunday's game in San Diego after two violent sneezes brought on back spasms. The severity of his injury was revealed Tuesday.

"You know the first day it happened, I knew it was something really serious. I couldn't even stand up," Sosa said Wednesday.

"I went through a lot of pain. Right now I feel better. Yesterday I went to the doctor. It will take some time."

Sosa, batting .291 with 10 homers and 24 RBI, came to Wrigley Field for treatment Wednesday and was in so much pain he had trouble descending the stairs into the team's clubhouse.

There were no problems with any discs, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said.

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

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. Wood will throw off a mound again Thursday before a decision will be made on whether he can rejoin the rotation during a weekend series against the Cardinals.

Nursing an injury that forced him out of a game against the Dodgers last week and forced him to miss a start, Wood didn't have a throwing session Wednesday. He said he felt fine.

"I don't think coming back from an army injury you want to throw three days in a row," he said. "I felt 85 percent yesterday. We'll pick it up (Thursday) and see how everything goes."

Prior is slated to make a rehab start Thursday with the Class-A Lansing to gauge his comeback.

Cubs manager Dusty Baker said Prior, who's been sidelined all season is still in the spring training stages. In addition to pitching, Prior must also be ready to do things like cover first base, back up the plate and run the bases. The Cubs hope Prior will be ready to rejoin the team and pitch during the June 4-6 series against the Pirates at Wrigley Field.

Remlinger is headed to Portland with Triple-A Iowa and hopes to pitch Friday and Saturday and then rejoin the team. He had offseason shoulder surgery.

"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.

Sosa said he's surprised, too, that a sneeze started his problems.

"It's amazing to me. It's something that happened," Sosa said. "But you know that's life and you got to deal with it."

And a sore back is nothing to sneeze at, especially for a player who swings as hard as Sosa.

"You got to go through a lot of pain and it's not easy," he said. "It's something you don't have control over. It happened. I don't know how it happened or why it happened. ... It's my back and you got to be very careful with that. You have to let it heal."

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," 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 five trips to the DL in his 16-year career, and his stint last season was his first since 1996.

He was on the DL last season after having the nail on his right big toe removed, causing him to miss 18 games. He was also suspended seven games for using a corked bat. The Cubs were 13-12 without him.

"We were without Sammy 25 games last year and handled it. I think we have a better bench than last year and better replacements," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

Baker said he would mix and match right fielders, depending on who was pitching. Jose Macias got the start Wednesday night. Todd Hollandsworth was there Tuesday night.

Baker said he could also use Damian Jackson, Tom Goodwin and Dubois.

Sosa's No. 3 spot in the batting order was taken by Moises Alou, who moved up from the cleanup spot.

"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

ALSO SEE