Manager quizzed about lineup, tension

Is a rift with Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker affecting Sammy Sosa's performance? Or vice versa? Or both?

The slugger, who has been in something of a slump, went 0-for-5 in Thursday's 5-4 loss to the San Diego Padres, striking out four times. He was booed loudly by the fans at Wrigley Field.

Sosa was visibly upset beforehand about a Chicago Tribune report Thursday that Baker had called him "sensitive," and he declined to comment after the game.

Baker insists his relationship with Sosa is fine, but there has been a stream of Tribune articles suggesting otherwise. The issue highlighted is Sosa's place in the lineup, particularly whether Baker has thought of changing it and whether Sosa has protested such a plan.

Baker and Sosa met one-on-one Tuesday, sparking speculation that there was tension between the two behind the scenes. Baker told the Tribune that people are making too much of the meeting, insisting that he has such meetings with players "all the time."

Asked if things were all right between him and Sosa, Baker said, "Why isn't everything all right? A meeting is not a fight. A meeting is a meeting."

Most recently, he rebutted a published report that Sosa "made it clear" to him in a June meeting that he would refuse to bat lower than fourth. Baker told the Tribune that Sosa has never made any demands about his place in the lineup.

"Whose mouth did it come out of?" Baker asked. "You've got to find the mouth that said it and go ask him. It wasn't my mouth, and it wasn't [Sosa's] mouth. ... That's just starting unnecessary stuff that we don't need trying to get this wild card berth and going down the stretch."

Asked whether Sosa would object to being moved down, Baker replied: "Probably," Baker said. "Everybody has a problem moving down. ... I had a problem moving down myself."

Nonetheless, he added that he would move Sosa down in the order if the occasion arose.

"I didn't say I couldn't move him in the order," Baker told the Tribune. "I decided not to. If the time comes and I have to, I'll do what I've got to do. I'm the manager."