Sosa back in lineup after stint on DL

CHICAGO -- A month after a couple of violent sneezes landed
Sammy Sosa on the disabled list, the Chicago Cubs' slugger is
finally back.

Sosa was activated Friday and in the lineup for the game against
the Oakland Athletics. It's his first game since May 15, and he got
a loud ovation when his name was announced before the game.

"It's a good feeling to be back," he said. "The team played
very well, I like that. It's always good to be back in the field."

To make room for Sosa, the Cubs optioned outfielder Jason Dubois
to Triple-A Iowa. Dubois hit .167 with an RBI in 11 games.

Sosa sprained a ligament in his back when he sneezed hard twice
before Chicago played in San Diego on May 15. He had back spasms
initially, and his back hurt so much for several days he had
trouble walking down stairs.

Sosa took batting practice for the first time June 8, then went
to Double-A West Tenn last weekend for a rehab assignment, only the
second of his career. Sosa played three games for the Diamond Jaxx,
going 2-for-7 with three strikeouts, a double and an RBI single.

He had hoped to play one game in right field, but that plan was
scrapped because of wet conditions.

"I decided to go the minor leagues because I wanted to be ready
from the first day," said Sosa, who went 0-for-11 with eight
strikeouts when he returned from the DL last year.

"I went there to make sure everything is OK. I'm happy to be
back. I'm ready to go."

Cubs manager Dusty Baker had Sosa bat fourth, one spot below his
normal place in the lineup.

"I know last year when he was out, it took him a couple of days
to get his stroke back," Baker said. "So I moved him down to take
the pressure off."

No matter where he hits, the Cubs are thrilled to have Sosa
back. Chicago went 16-14 without him, and the club's runs per game
dropped from 5.1 to 4.7. Sosa was hitting .291 with 10 home runs
and 24 RBIs before his injury.

Still, the Cubs just wrapped up a road trip to Anaheim and
Houston with a 6-1 record, including a four-game sweep of the NL
Central rival Astros. The Cubs began the day two games behind
division-leading St. Louis.

The Cubs will get another boost Saturday when second baseman
Mark Grudzielanek (Achilles' tendon) is activated. Chicago also
hopes to get right-hander Kerry Wood (strained triceps) back in the
next few weeks.

"That was an unbelievable road trip, we got six out of seven.
That's nice," Sosa said. "When everybody's together, it'll be
hard for us to go into a little slump again."