Kerry Wood says he does not have a timetable for his return, but as we start to hear of strikeouts and ERA, I believe Cub fans are starting to take notice a little bit. Taking notice aside, I don’t think Cub fans are ready to go down that road again with a player that has provided such excitement and broke so many hearts.
Tonight, Wood takes one step closer in his rehabilitation process as he makes a rehab start for the Class A Peoria Chiefs against the Fort Wayne Wizards at O’Brien Field. He is expected to throw one inning, and if the outing goes well, Wood will pitch again on Thursday and Friday against Dayton. The Chiefs will also have Cubs catcher Henry Blanco on the roster for the duration of the home stand as a catcher and designated hitter.
Wood was placed on the disabled list April 1st with tendinitis in his right shoulder and has been making simulated and rehab starts at the Cubs Spring Training facility in Mesa, AZ. In the Arizona Rookie League he made four appearances from July 14-21 going 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA. In four innings of work he allowed four hits and one walk while striking out five.
Most Cub fans are very familiar with Woods history. No pitcher in major-league history reached 1,000 strikeouts more quickly, either in games or innings pitched. He had a fastball once clocked at 102 miles per hour and a devastatingly hard curve/slurve that tumbled a foot in its journey to home plate; Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell once said of the pitch, I got no chance.
Selected with the 4th overall pick in 1995, Wood made his Cubs debut in 1998 with a 13-6 record and a 3.40 ERA. He made national headlines on May 6th, 1998 when he tied the Major League record with 20 strikeouts in a 1-hitter against Houston. He won the 1998 National League Rookie of the Year as the Cubs won the NL Wild card. Wood went 14-11 in 2003 while leading the NL in strikeouts and making the All-Start team. Wood helped the Cubs to the 2003 Central Division title and in the NLDS he went 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA and also hit a home run. Last season, Wood made 10 starts in 21 appearances and was 3-4 with a 4.23 ERA. He entered the 2006 season with a 70-54 career record, a 3.57 ERA and 1286 strikeouts in just 1109 innings.
Wood said he feels like he has turned the corner. Even if he has, the culture in Chicago has changed. In years past, there were visions of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior taking us to October, striking out everyone on the way. Now fans are more interested in the play of rookies Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot, the fastball of Marmol and the reemergence of Ronny Cedeno.
While I believe most Cub fans wish nothing but the best for Wood, they have zero expectations left for him. Maybe that is the way it is supposed to be. Can he come back in late September and revitalize a bullpen that has more than its share of ups and downs this season. Should we even expect him to?
Does Kerry Woods arm have a few ounces of beauty left in it?