03/10/06 7:17 PM ET
Notes: Wood ahead of schedule?
Lee, Barrett contribute to big USA win; Hill striving for location
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"It's pretty amazing," Wood said Friday. "It feels pretty good today, and today's better than yesterday. I expect the same tomorrow."
Wood, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in late August, had a 20-minute procedure on Tuesday to repair a torn medial meniscus. Wood has two small sutures on each side of his right knee, and that's it. He doesn't have to wear a brace.
"[My knee] is a little tight, I've got a little swelling, but other than that, it doesn't bother me to walk," Wood said. "They gave me a cane to walk out of there with, and I didn't use it."
The only day he hasn't done any shoulder exercises was Tuesday, when he had the knee operation. Wood doesn't consider this a setback.
"No, I don't really," he said. "Mark [O'Neal, Cubs athletic trainer] told me today he didn't expect me to be where I was at until six, seven, eight days after surgery, so it looks like we're heading in the right direction."
On his heavy shoulder-workout days, Wood does 1 1/2 hours of exercises. On his light days, he does a half hour.
"Everything still feels strong," Wood said.
World Baseball Classic: Both Derrek Lee and Michael Barrett were in the starting lineup Friday in Team USA's 17-0, five-inning win over South Africa in the World Baseball Classic. The U.S. team advances to the second round and will play Japan on Sunday at Angel Stadium.
Lee was 2-for-3 with four RBIs, hitting his second home run of the tournament, and Barrett drove in a run with a groundout. Even though this means Lee and Barrett won't rejoin the Cubs, manager Dusty Baker was hoping the U.S. team would advance.
"I don't want to see them knocked out -- I want to see them win for us," Baker said. "In the case of D-Lee, he's getting more at-bats and playing time there than he would here. Michael's probably getting a little less. Still, I think it's been a great experience to be around those guys.
"It's a good experience for your confidence, especially for Michael, to feel like you're an All-Star," Baker said. "D-Lee's been an All-Star. When you're on a team like that with other stars, that builds your confidence. 'Hey, man, I'm a star.' I think it's better for Michael in that situation confidence-wise and psychologically than D-Lee."
Meanwhile, Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano is expected to start Monday for Venezuela when it plays the Pool C winner. Zambrano will be going on six days' rest.
Good student: Left-hander Rich Hill made his second spring start Friday and gave up four runs on four hits and one walk over two innings. He served up two home runs and struck out four. Hill doesn't care where he pitches -- Arizona, Chicago, whatever -- he has to do one thing, and that's keep the ball down.
"For me, personally, if I keep the ball down and locate my fastball, that's it, I'll have success," Hill said. "Today, a few pitches were up and went out of the park."
Hill feels as if he's made progress each outing.
"Every outing I'm getting better. From the intrasquad to the first outing to this outing, there are things that have been improving," he said. "Today, I threw some good fastballs again, threw some great curveballs, and moving on to the next outing I look forward to better location, better location with the fastball, start mixing some changeups and move on in that direction."
"He has improved," Baker said. "He made some very good pitches today. Probably the only mistake he made was the 3-1 fastball to [Angels' Chone] Figgins. He got the ball up. He's keeping the ball down better. His curveball was good. He has improved big time from last year at this point to this year. That's what you like to see. We're very pleased and impressed with where he is right now."
Hill has been experimenting with a changeup this spring.
"It's been good in the side [sessions]," he said. "There have been situations in games where I should throw it. I think it's just [a matter of] gaining confidence in it and throwing it a few times, throwing it for strikes and being able to throw it any time."
Arms race: How does a team know when a pitcher should be a starter or reliever? Left-hander John Koronka has been used primarily as a starter in his young career, but pitched in relief in the Arizona Fall League last October. He's been used in relief this spring, too, and has totaled five innings over four games. On Friday, he retired the side in his one inning.
"He likes doing that," Baker said of the switch for the lefty. "He's actually been pretty good at it. Right now, we're using him like that. I'm not sure if that's how he'll pitch. We're trying to get guys innings."
But how do they know?
"He was pretty effective [as a starter]," Baker said, "but you're hoping he's more effective as a reliever. Probably the toughest guy to find in pitching now is a left-handed reliever. The more effective he is at it, the more comfortable he becomes at it, the more confidence he gets, the better he'll be."
Quick reactions: Pitcher Jae-kuk Ryu showed he has quick reactions on Thursday when he handled a nasty comebacker in Tucson.
"That was a vicious line drive," Baker said. "His hand was quivering a little bit. We were hoping [his hand] wasn't broken. That was a tremendous, ferocious line drive. He had tremendous reactions to catch it.
"I was joking with him -- I think he's a third-degree black belt, and I think some of his reactions came into play there," Baker said.
"It was hard. I didn't know I could do that," said Ryu (pronounced You), who does have a black belt in tae kwon do.
It was difficult for the 22-year-old Korean pitcher when he first came to the United States. The Cubs provided an interpreter, but that person didn't understand baseball terminology. When a coach talked about the "head" of the bat, it just didn't make sense.
"That was a problem. That was a really big problem," Ryu said. "They had to show with body language. They would talk, and I didn't understand, so they did motions and I understood.
"I had to learn a lot," he said. "When I first came here, I couldn't throw a changeup. I asked players like [Mark] Prior. They really helped me. Right now, I'm trying to throw a curveball."
Extra bases: Jerry Hairston Jr. started at second base Friday, his first game back after he was hit in the head by a pitch on Sunday. ... Todd Walker started at first base. ... Third baseman Aramis Ramirez is still sidelined, nursing an infected ring finger. He could be back in the lineup on Saturday. ... The Cubs Wives will hold their annual Food Drive and Memorabilia Auction on Saturday. Bring nonperishable items to Gate D at HoHoKam Park. The Food Drive will benefit Paz de Cristo Community Center in Mesa.
On deck: The Cubs play host to the Kansas City Royals on Saturday at HoHoKam Park. Right-hander Angel Guzman is scheduled to make his second spring start for the Cubs. Guzman gave up one hit over two innings in his other appearance against Oakland on Monday. The game will be broadcast on WGN Radio. Greg Maddux is scheduled to start Sunday for the Cubs against Milwaukee.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.