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So-So Reduction For Sosa

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.

The appeal of the eight-game suspension by the Chicago Cubs' slugger was heard Tuesday in Baltimore. The suspension begins with the Cubs' game Wednesday night against the Orioles.

"I am convinced of the sincerity of Sosa's explanation and his contrition," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer. "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, had been suspended for using a corked bat during a game against Tampa Bay on June 3 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

"The suspensions over the past 20 years for the use of an illegal bat have ranged from seven to 10 games," DuPuy said. "Given the circumstances of this case, I felt that the lower end of the range was the most appropriate."

Sosa was suspended by Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline. His appeal had allowed him to play until a ruling was made.

He was ejected from the game with the Devil Rays 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 said he mistakenly grabbed a bat he uses for batting practice and used it in the game.

Chicago went 10-7 without Sosa last month while he was on the disabled list after surgery on his big toe. Now he will be out of the lineup next week when the Cubs follow a three-game interleague series against Toronto with a four-game road trip against Cincinnati.

By Ronald Blum