Good News

The Cubs have had enough bad news about the health of their pitchers in recent weeks, so it was refreshing to hear some good news Tuesday.

Manager Dusty Baker said it was possible that injured starter Kerry Wood could return by late April.

The Cubs were hoping Wood could return in April after shoulder surgery last Aug. 31, but he developed knee pain and needed arthroscopic knee surgery on March 7. That figured to push back his progress.

But Wood is throwing off the mound, and his next step will be to face live hitters.

The oft-injured Wood is taking a low-key approach on his rehab and not predicting when he will come back, but he said he's been feeling "optimistic" since he had the knee surgery.

NOTES, QUOTES

--LHP Sean Marshall, who is one of four candidates for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, helped his cause Tuesday by firing three shutout innings against Milwaukee. Marshall is battling three other prospects for the spot, which became open when RHP Mark Prior suffered a shoulder injury.

--RHP Ryan Dempster was scheduled to pitch Tuesday against Milwaukee, but the game was suspended by rain after six innings. Dempster had gone a week without Cactus League action, getting his work during simulated innings. The Cubs say there are no health problems with Dempster, and Dempster said it was better to build arm strength in controlled settings.

--SS Ronny Cedeno appears to be breaking out of his Cactus League funk. He hit a two-run homer Tuesday against Milwaukee and raised his average to .237 after it was in the .180s late last week. Cubs manager Dusty Baker said that Cedeno, who hit .355 at Triple-A Iowa last year and .300 with the parent club, needed to work on his pitch selection at the plate.

--1B Derrek Lee (shoulder strain) continues to miss Cactus League games. Lee, who hurt the shoulder diving for a ball in the World Baseball Classic on March 12, hopes to return this week.

--LHP Glendon Rusch, who took a line drive off his left shin in his previous start Saturday, will be able to make Thursday's start against Seattle. Rusch is penciled in to start the second game of the regular season against Cincinnati on April 5 -- a spot that had belonged to RHP Mark Prior before Prior suffered a shoulder injury. Rusch is hoping for a sharper outing Thursday after posting a 9.82 ERA in his first four Cactus League appearances.


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