05/10/2003 4:39 PM ET
Sosa goes on 15-day DL
CHICAGO -- Sammy Sosa likes to call himself a gladiator but even gladiators sometimes stub their toes.
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
The Chicago Cubs placed Sosa on the 15-day disabled list Saturday after he had the toenail removed from his right big toe.
"It's really, really affected the way he swings the bat," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said of the slugger, who was batting .303 with six home runs and 23 RBIs.
Sosa's toe had not responded to treatment, and he had the nail removed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Saturday.
"I've been bothered by the toe for the last month," Sosa said in a statement issued by the Cubs. "It just wasn't getting any better. I feel relieved that the nail is off, and it can finally heal. I can come back at 110 percent."
It's the fourth time Sosa has been placed on the disabled list in his career. The last was 1996 when he suffered a fractured right hand.
"His (right) big toe has been bothering him," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Something's wrong. He's been fighting through it."
Troy O'Leary started in right field and batted third Saturday in the Cubs' 3-2, 10-inning win against St. Louis and will likely see the most playing time while Sosa recuperates.
"We've got to come out and as a group step up and fill that vacancy," Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood said. "We've got enough guys in the clubhouse who can step up and get it done. We've got to play good baseball. We've go to make teams beat us. We can't give the game to them."
Because of the pain, Baker said Sosa hasn't been able to rotate well on his swing, especially against left-handers.
"Sammy's a gladiator," Baker said. "For him to say 'enough,' it has to hurt."
The Cubs decided to take care of Sosa's sore toe now rather than let it fester.
"He's tried to mask this thing for a month now," Baker said. "Today was a day when he couldn't take it anymore. Sammy has a very high threshold for pain. Now was the time we thought to do something about it."
The Cubs called up right-handed pitcher Todd Wellemeyer from Triple-A Iowa to take Sosa's spot on the roster. Wellemeyer was 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in three games for Iowa. The move means the team will carry 12 pitchers.
"I'm not crazy about 12 pitchers," Baker said.
However, the Cubs are in the midst of a stretch of 20 consecutive days of games, and could use the pitching help. Plus, the young players on the Iowa roster who were considered -- such as third baseman David Kelton -- need regular playing time.
"With this streak that we have going on here ... if anything goes wrong with our starters one or two days, especially back to back, you could go through your bullpen rather easily," Baker said.
Can the Cubs survive without Sosa?
"We're going to miss him," shortstop Alex Gonzalez said. "This is the time on a good team where guys have to step up and do the job."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.