05/30/2003 3:04 PM ET
Notes: Slammin' Sammy returns
Injured Guthrie to be activated soon
CHICAGO -- Sammy Sosa was so eager to come back that he was at Wrigley Field on Thursday's off day to hit in a simulated game.
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"We're happy to get Sammy back, we're all happy," Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of the slugger, who was activated from the disabled list and in the lineup Friday. "He's like a little kid running around, happy to be back in the lineup."
Sosa hit Thursday against left-hander Mark Guthrie, who threw a simulated game, and then ran the bases. He's ready to go after being sidelined since May 10 when he had his right big toenail removed.
"Merry Christmas," Sosa said after taking early hitting at Wrigley Field before the Cubs game against the Houston Astros. "I'm very excited. It's something that's been driving me crazy sitting in the house watching the game. I like to be there with the action. Today I'm very excited to go back and be with the team. Everybody's excited."
Sosa was batting .303 with six home runs and 23 RBIs in 35 games before he was sidelined. It was the first time he had to go on the disabled list since 1996 and that was because of a fractured right hand.
"I'm not used to (watching games)," Sosa said. "I'm used to being there every day."
He's strengthened his legs to make sure he's ready physically to return.
"I feel strong, physically and mentally," Sosa said. "I don't have to worry about my toe, don't have to think about it when I'm at the plate."
The Cubs went 10-7 without Sosa and maintained their hold on first place in the Central Division.
"We're still in first place, we have to continue to be in first place," Sosa said. "Me back in the lineup is going to be a big impact. I'm back and I'm very excited."
"If someone had told me three weeks ago we'd be without Sammy, I'd have been sad like a dog, which I was," Baker said. "The guys played well. We played well as a unit."
Left-handed pitcher Phil Norton was optioned to Triple-A Iowa to make room on the Cubs roster for Sosa. The move reduces the number of pitchers on the 25-man roster to 11.
Corey Patterson batted .279 (12-for-43) in the third spot in Sosa's absence and was dropped to No. 5 in the order Friday ahead of fellow lefty Hee Seop Choi. Did Baker consider mixing up the righties and lefties?
"I thought about it," he said, "but (Moises Alou) and Sammy, they don't care, right or left. I've got Corey who's going pretty good against lefties and if they bring in a lefty for big Choi, I've got Eric Karros sitting over there and then they'd have to make another decision if they want to leave that lefty in there to face Eric or face Lenny (Harris).
"When I played in Los Angeles, we had all right-handers except Rick Monday and Reggie Smith," Baker said. "We could still do a lot of damage."
Aches and pains: Guthrie, on the disabled list with tendinitis in his left elbow, will likely throw another simulated game Saturday or Sunday. "Physically, no problems," Guthrie said. "Mechanically, I'm a little screwed up because I haven't thrown much." If all goes well, he could be activated Tuesday.
New look: Reliever Antonio Alfonseca arrived at Wrigley Field with a new 'do -- he had his blonde hair cut off.
"Same name. New guy," Alfonseca said.
No deal: The Cubs were interested in third baseman Shea Hillenbrand, who was dealt by Boston to Arizona for pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim.
"We were in the running, too," Baker said. "Hillenbrand was one of the two or three guys that we were really trying to get. I guess Boston wanted Kim more than anybody that we have. I talked to Jim (Hendry, Cubs general manager) and he said they wanted us to throw in (Carlos) Zambrano or somebody. That was a little too steep for us. We have to go to the drawing board and get somebody else."
So does that mean the Cubs are trying to make a deal?
"It all depends," Baker said. "It all depends on if somebody's willing to deal with us and what their asking price is. You don't want to strengthen yourself in one position and weaken yourself in another. You want to keep what you have and maintain that strength and try to strengthen the area that's a question, which right now is third base."
Hendry said there were no "substantial trade talks" with the Red Sox and refused to talk about other team's players to avoid tampering.
Back home again: Jody Davis, who was the Cubs catcher from 1981-1988, was back at Wrigley Field on Friday. He survived the hot days of summer behind the plate. Back then, the Cubs didn't play night games at home.
"Back then, I didn't really care," Davis said. "I came up with the Cubs in the minors and kind of got into that routine and got used to it. It was something you never thought about until you went on the road. Going on the road was a change in routine.
"I found that when you go on the road, you couldn't sleep past 7:30, 8 o'clock in the morning because you're used to getting up early," Davis said. "Of course, July and August was hot, but it wasn't any hotter than Atlanta where I grew up."
Davis was well aware of which way the flags were blowing at Wrigley Field. He had to look out for his pitchers.
"When I lived here, I used to keep the window cracked open so I could see which way the leaves were blowing," Davis said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.