Watch CBSN Live

Sosa Wins Cheers, But Awaits Fate

The rest of Sammy Sosa's bats were clean, just as he promised they'd be.

Now baseball officials have to decide what to do about the one that started this mess.

Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline, was to be at Wrigley Field on Thursday, conducting interviews before deciding what punishment Sosa deserves for using a corked bat Tuesday night.

"Whatever they decide to do, I have to deal with it," Sosa said.

A piece of cork was found just above the handle in Sosa's bat Tuesday night when it shattered after he grounded out in the first inning of the Chicago Cubs' 3-2 victory. Sosa insists it was a mistake, saying he accidentally pulled out a bat he uses to put on home run displays for fans in batting practice.

Tests Wednesday appeared to support that. X-rays of 76 bats confiscated from Sosa's locker Tuesday night found no cork or illegal substances, said Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office.

"Good. That makes everybody feel a lot better," Atlanta's Chipper Jones said. "It doesn't take away from what happened, but it gives some validity to what Sammy was saying. If he's got one bat that got mixed in with the rest of his bats, then I believe it was an honest mistake."

Sosa's bats in the Hall of Fame might still be examined, Alderson said. The Hall has five of Sosa's bats, including the one he presented in mid-April, more than a week after he hit his 500th home run.

But the tests Wednesday went a long way toward easing people's minds. Sosa was greeted with rousing cheers when he did his traditional sprint to right field Wednesday night, and fans gave him a standing ovation when he came to the plate in the first inning.

One fan held up a sign that read, "Still loving Sammy."

"They know that I am an innocent person," Sosa said. "When I went to right field, everybody was cheering for me. I feel very happy inside. It's something I'm never going to forget."

Sosa has been baseball's quintessential good guy the last five seasons, a lovable slugger with an infectious smile and a feel-good story. While Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds got the home run records, Sosa got most of the adulation.

"To get caught and it's Sammy - that's a big deal. That's a huge deal," Cincinnati Reds pitcher Danny Graves said. "That's like saying Roger Clemens is scuffing the ball. It just totally breaks your heart, you know what I mean? I'm not saying Roger Clemens scuffs the ball. I'm just using his name because he's the best pitcher in baseball."

But Sosa swears he's never used anything illegal. Dozens of his bats have broken over the years without anything suspicious being found.

And if he was trying to cheat, he said, why wouldn't he have tried to grab the bat before anyone saw it?

"I would have come back to the plate and picked up all the pieces, don't you think?" he said. "I didn't pick it up. I went to the dugout. So you guys can see the difference."

But it doesn't mean he's off the hook. Other players who've used corked bats have been suspended for up to 10 games, and Alderson said he thinks precedent will play a part in Watson's decision.

Sosa can appeal any discipline imposed.

"I think it would be in everyone's best interest to conclude this as quickly as possible, and be able to have a decision that is timely," Alderson said.

But how did this happen in the first place?

Sosa uses bats made by three different manufacturers. While each brand is visibly different, Alderson said all bats made by the same maker look similar. The bat Sosa used Tuesday night was made by Tuffbat.

Jones said it's easy to see how Sosa could have grabbed the wrong bat.

"I've got five boxes of bats in there," Jones said. "Bat doesn't feel good, you throw it in this box. Bat feels good, OK, that's going to be a gamer. You go 10 at-bats without getting a hit, you throw it in a box, get a new one. You're always interchanging."

After what happened this week, baseball probably needs to address that, Alderson said.

"If this was a batting practice bat, the possibility of confusing that bat would suggest that we probably ought to be awfully careful about having any of those bats around," he said. "It's not something we've looked at, but we will."

By Nancy Armour