Thursday, May 18, 2006

yet another wood comeback

kerry wood today marks another milestone, returning from his umpteenth trip to the disabled list in his career -- indeed, perhaps it is wrong to imply progress when wood could more appropriately be said to be walking in circles, passing the same tree in the forest again and again. wood hasn't started a big league game in nearly a year -- over eight months of rehab following surgery intended to repair his labrum.

this page has before said that little can be expected, and indeed even the cubs are trying to temper enthusiasm.

"He's not going to walk out there and be the Kerry Wood now that you saw in '03,'' pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "You're not going to see a finished product. You're going to see a guy that's going to get to that point as long as he stays healthy.

"We're going to have to watch him the first month or so. This is where he has to take the next step. I'm optimistic about the way he is throwing the ball. He's ready to compete here. Hopefully, he comes out of it healthy.''

for a truth-challenged organization, this is about as succinct a summary of wood's return as can be imagined coming from the mouth of one of its employees. wood's rehabilitation is far from over -- the lingering effects of labrum repair run over years, not weeks. it is in fact quite likely that he will never be the pitcher he once was nor ever fulfill his considerable lost promise.

of course, that was already true last year, sadly. since the close of 2003, when a plainly spooked wood took the mound and the loss in the most anticlimactic championship series seventh game in baseball history, he has compiled an 11-12 record in 32 starts while chalking an era just a hair under 4 and become the poster child for the prevention of pitcher abuse.

but it is to be fervently hoped that wood can muster at least enough of a performance to showcase himself leading up to the july trading deadline. the cubs are not going to exercize their $13mm option on him for 2007, and he has proven beyond any doubt that he is simply not the kind of reliable pitcher that a team can build around -- his gifted arm is also cursed, it would seem. and the cubs, already out of it in may and likely to be even further back in july, should stop at nothing to move some players to contending teams in exchange for young help that can be a foundation for the future. wood may well be such a player if he does well now.

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