MILWAUKEE—Sammy Sosa no longer can make his head swivel like a bobblehead dollat least not since he experienced sharp pain in the back of his neck that forced him to leave in the eighth inning of last Saturday's game at Arizona and to miss Sunday's game.
Sosa, who returned to Chicago on Sunday, rejoined his teammates Monday at Miller Park. But he may be unable to play for a day or two.
The Cubs certainly missed Sosa's bat in the lineup against the Milwaukee Brewers. Wasting Mark Prior's two-run, three-hit, seven-inning outing, the Cubs dropped a 2-1 decision in front of the 27,254 fans who showed up to watch the mascot race and two of the most inept teams in the major leagues.
"If I am not ready [Tuesday], I am looking at Wednesday or Thursday," said Sosa, who has had problems sleeping since sustaining the injury. "I just want to be 100 percent ready first. I really don't want to go out there and not be 100 percent."The Cubs have scored just eight runs the last six games. Brewers starter Ben Sheets and closer Mike DeJean (21st save) stumped the Cubs Monday.
The Brewers jumped on Prior (6-5) for two runs in the second inning when catcher Jorge Fabregas snapped an 0-for-23 slump with a two-run, opposite-field double to left.
"I think [the pitch] was down and away and it was 1-0a hitter's count," Prior said. "He kind of just went with it. I don't think he drove it. He just kind of flicked his bat out there."
Sheets (8-15) cruised through the first seven innings before yielding a leadoff double to Alex Gonzalez in the eighth. Todd Hundley moved Gonzalez to third with a ground out to second before Chris Stynes, pinch-hitting for Prior, singled to center to score Gonzalez.
Mark Bellhorn then lined a shot to right, where Jeffrey Hammonds made a sensational shoestring catch. Hammonds then threw to first to double off Bobby Hill, who was pinch-running for Stynes and attempting to steal second before the catch.
"On that one there, you have to give the right fielder credit," manager Bruce Kimm said. "We may be talking inside-the-park home run."
Secret plan: Kimm said he has a plan to implement for his ballclub that he does not yet want to divulge.
"It is not a major plan. I don't want to blow it out of proportion," he said cryptically. "It is not really tinkering, but having a little talk about approach."
Call to duty: After failing to be activated by the Cubs from Triple-A Iowa while the team was in Houston and Arizona, Hill finally joined the team officially Monday night.
Hill took the roster spot of left-handed reliever Jeff Fassero (traded to St. Louis on Sunday). During his first call-up from May 10 to June 11, Hill batted .182 (16-for-88) with two homers and seven RBIs in 30 games.
"I really wasn't myself up here [the first time]," Hill said. "I should have taken the same attitude I took in spring training. Just playing my game and being myself, no matter what."
Bellhorn remained in the starting lineup at second base Monday.
"Bobby Hill will get some playing time, but for the most part he's an extra player right now," Kimm said.
The Cubs are without a left-hander on their staff with the trade of Fassero and demotion of starter Steve Smyth.
"As much as I would like to have that extra pitcher, Bobby Hill has played well all year and he gives us a little more versatility there," said Kimm, who added that he plans to summon right-handers Kyle Farnsworth or Joe Borowsky to face a tough left-handed hitter.
"Who knows? Maybe it will work out better," Kimm said.
Making progress: Jason Bere made an injury rehab start for Triple-A Iowa on Sunday at Omaha. He pitched five innings, yielding two runs on three walks while striking out three.
"It was good to just get out there in a game atmosphere," Bere said. "The adrenaline is not as high, but it is still pitching in situations. It felt good. It felt OK. I got to use a lot of off-speed stuff down there because if you just pump fastballs, they swing kind of often at them."
Bere or Carlos Zambrano will start Friday's game against St. Louis. If Zambrano starts Friday, then Bere and Prior will pitch in Saturday's doubleheader. That is assuming there is not a strike called.