Wood Nearing Return, Bullpen

After working as a starter his entire professional career, Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood is heading to the bullpen after a rehab stint. It could come as early as this weekend when the Cubs visit the New York Mets.

Wood has had numerous shoulder problems this season, and rather than shut him down, the Cubs feel he could still be valuable out of the bullpen. Wood could face possible offseason surgery to clean up his right shoulder, but for now, the team believes he could still help with one- and two-inning stints and that the relief appearances will not take a toll on the shoulder.

Cubs officials and Wood himself do not want to speculate if he will remain in the bullpen next year -- perhaps as a closer -- but they acknowledge that for this year, it's the best course of action.

Wood knows he's in for some major changes in his preparation.

"It's like anything else -- if you've done something your whole life and you change, it's going to be different," Wood said. "But it won't take that long. If I get three guys out, that's what you're supposed to do."

Wood has picked the brains of some of the Cubs' relievers.

"I've talked to them, but until you go out and experience it -- it's just going to be me out there," Wood said.

When asked if he had any thoughts of stretching out and being a starter in September, Wood said, "Let's just get me back on the field first."


--LF Matt Lawton was acquired from Pittsburgh for OF Jody Gerut and will serve as the Cubs' leadoff man.

--SS Nomar Garciaparra was heading for a rehab stint with Double-A West Tenn and if all goes well, he could rejoin the Cubs in New York next weekend. Garciaparra injured his groin on April 20.

--RHP Kerry Wood was expected to go on a rehab assignment at Double-A West Tenn. Wood, suffering from an inflamed right shoulder, will pitch out of the bullpen when he returns.

--RHP Roberto Novoa picked up the relief win in the Cubs' ninth-inning come-from-behind victory over Arizona on Friday. In the last four Cubs victories, relievers were credited with the victory.

--3B Aramis Ramirez' right quadriceps muscle acted up on him again on Friday and he did not start, but he delivered a ninth-inning pinch-hit single to give the Cubs a 4-3 victory. He injured the leg early in Wednesday's game against San Francisco and left that game in the eighth inning. But he played Thursday against Arizona.

--CF Jerry Hairston Jr., who missed Wednesday's game against San Francisco with a bruised left calf, was back in the lineup on Thursday and picked up a single in his first at-bat.

--OF Adam Greenberg, who was hit in the head with a pitch in his first major league at-bat, was activated and sent to Double-A West Tenn.

--RHP Matt Clement pitched for the Cubs from 2002-04, and many of his former teammates were horrified to watch highlights of the Boston starter getting hit on the head with a line drive at Tampa on Tuesday and being carried off in a stretcher.

"I couldn't watch that," Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux said. "You had to look away every time. You hope he gets back and his head stops hurting soon. He's a quality guy and you never want to see anybody get hit -- especially guys you like."

Clement called Mark Prior to let him know he was all right.

Prior took a liner off his elbow in late May and took a month to return.

"You try not to think about it when you're pitching, but I still think about it a little bit," Prior said. "At times when I came back and faced a left-handed hitter, I thought about it a little bit."

BY THE NUMBERS: 9,004 -- Franchise-record crowd Class A Peoria drew Wednesday to watch rehabbing shortstop Nomar Garciaparra play in the first game of a doubleheader.

9,602 -- The crowd to see Garciaparra play Thursday, breaking the record 24 hours later. The Chiefs had never previously drawn 9,000 to a game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's something that I heard didn't go on much here before. That was one of the things that upset Sammy (Sosa) when he was here. One of the things he was upset with me about was that I didn't stop them from booing him. I don't know how I was going to do that." -- Cubs manager Dusty Baker on Wrigley Field fans booing their own players.

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