Thursday, June 5, 2003

Guillen knows how Sosa feels

Reds OF caught with corked bat in the minors

By Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

His initial reaction wasn't one of anger or even sympathy.

Jose Guillen felt nervous for Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa.

Once busted for using a corked bat during a minor-league game two years ago, the Reds outfielder knows the difficulties Sosa faces after being caught with a doctored bat Tuesday.

"It was really, really tough for me," said Guillen, who has 62 career major-league homers to Sosa's 505. "When I got called up to the big leagues later on, people were still taking, still messing around with me and laughing about it. But I felt bad.

"I hope Sammy can get over all this and prove to people that he doesn't need to use that."

The indiscretion by Sosa, one of the most popular and marketable players in the game today, resonated throughout baseball Wednesday.

It also cast serious doubt among many of his peers about the credibility of his prior accomplishments.

"Yeah, it makes you wonder," Reds pitcher Danny Graves said. "I'm sure all 505 home runs he's hit weren't with corked bats. But it makes you wonder how many were.

"The guy is a monster. He doesn't need a corked bat. That's what I don't understand."

Said Yankees manager Joe Torre: "There's always going to be the question of, 'Did he use it? Look at how far he hit the ball.' It's always going to be there now."

Sosa hit his 500th homer off Reds reliever Scott Sullivan.

"I don't know if it taints it, because he was going to get his 500th off somebody," Sullivan said. "But Sammy will always be associated with corking his bat."

Major League Baseball examined 76 of Sosa's bats Wednesday and found nothing wrong with any.

But the art, or practice, of bat corking has been around for decades.

Former Reds infielder Chris Sabo was suspended for using a corked bat during a game in 1996. Cleveland's Albert Belle in 1994, Houston's Billy Hatcher in 1987 and former Yankees infielder Graig Nettles in 1974 are among the others.

"It's just another black eye for baseball," Reds shortstop Barry Larkin said. "It's just a shame."

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