Wood set to start in Peoria
Righty in town for fund-raiser before Tuesday rehab outing
CHICAGO -- About 4 1/2 weeks ago, Kerry Wood was considering possible career-ending surgery because his shoulder wasn't cooperating. On Sunday, he was thinking about where he'll get to pitch next in the Cubs' Minor League system.
"So far, so good," Wood said.
The next step is Peoria. Wood will make a rehab start Tuesday for the Class A Peoria Chiefs against the Fort Wayne Wizards at O'Brien Field. He was expected to throw one inning, and if the outing goes well, Wood will pitch again on Thursday and Friday against Dayton.
Wood will have a familiar catcher -- Henry Blanco is currently rehabbing with the Chiefs.
Wood has avoided surgery and may have revived his career. The right-hander appeared in his fourth game for the Cubs' Rookie League team in Mesa, Ariz., on Saturday, and threw 17 pitches. He gave up one hit, walked one, then got on a plane to Chicago to host his fourth annual charity bowling tournament.
The event, which will be held Sunday night at 10 Pin Bowling Lounge in Chicago, is to raise money for Project 3000, co-created by teammate Derrek Lee to raise awareness of Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, a rare eye disease. As of early Sunday, they had raised nearly $300,000.
Wood is focusing on rejoining the Cubs this season and being able to pitch out of the bullpen.
"He's still got a ways to go," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "To his credit, he's worked hard and gotten himself in [a] position where he's on our radar screen."
During his rehab outings, Wood is able to throw his fastball, curve and slider. The right-hander, who once struck out a record-tying 20 batters in a game, knows he needs to show that he can throw on back-to-back days.
The fact that he's able to throw at all is somewhat of a miracle. He had pitched in Spring Training but had to be shut down when his right shoulder got cranky.
"After Spring Training, it was pretty rough for a while," Wood said. "I couldn't do an exercise for almost three months. I was just trying to get treatment so I could move it.
"I felt like [garbage] for so long, and I was at a point where I didn't know what to do next," Wood said, standing next to his locker in the Cubs clubhouse. "I went out to play catch one more time, see how it felt, and I knew it would be the last time before I made a decision on whether I would have another surgery, or not. I went out to test how it felt, and it was fine. I went out the next day and it felt better."
He tried everything, although nothing too desperate. Apparently, his shoulder just needed time to recover. He had arthroscopic surgery at the end of August 2005, and was able to make four starts in 2006 before he had to be shut down again.
"We covered everything we could think of treatment-wise, exercise-wise," Wood said about the time that elapsed between Spring Training and a few weeks ago. "We were just kind of out of options. We thought, 'Give it one more shot' and it's been great ever since."
Wood has a timetable in mind to get back to the big leagues, but isn't sharing it. He and the Cubs medical staff are taking a conservative approach. He turned 30 on June 16, and doesn't want to undergo any more operations.
"I'd do another [procedure] only if I couldn't use my arm," he said.
Wood, who led the National League in strikeouts in 2003 with 266, does need to move up the Minor League ranks.
"I'd like to start getting in more of a game atmosphere and stop picking on 17-year-olds," he said.
What a lift it would be for the Cubs and Wood if he could help the team in the stretch run.
"He's a good guy, and he deserves things going his way," Piniella said. "Let's hope the rehab he's on now goes well and we can see him out here this summer."
So, what's next?
"I have an idea of what I want to do," Wood said. "There's no timetable. I've got one, but I'm not going to tell you."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.