Wood agrees to Cubs' $4.2M offer to pitch out of bullpen

Updated: November 26, 2007, 5:07 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Given his history of arm problems, even Kerry Wood was surprised at all the interest he drew from other teams in free agency.

Kerry Wood

Wood

While Wood was tempted to leave, he couldn't be lured from the team he has pitched for his entire career.

After making the switch to the bullpen last season after a swift recovery from shoulder problems, Wood agreed Monday to a $4.2 million, one-year deal to return to the Chicago Cubs, spurning what general manager Jim Hendry said were numerous multiyear offers elsewhere.

He called his decision to stay with the Cubs an easy one.

"Chicago's my home," Wood said during a conference call. "Chicago's been great to me. There's no better place to play, especially if you're winning."

Citing winning might sound odd considering the franchise hasn't won a World Series since 1908. But with the club "on an upswing" and coming off an NL Central title in 2007, he also wants to be part of a Cubs team that finally wins it all.

Wood, the 1998 NL Rookie of the Year, can make an additional $3.45 million in performance bonuses based largely on games finished from 20 to 55. He had a $1.75 million salary this year.

The right-hander went 1-1 last season with a 3.33 ERA in 22 relief appearances. He didn't join the team until Aug. 5, when he made his first appearance since June 2006.

Hendry said Wood is likely to join Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry at the back end of the bullpen, with exact roles to be determined by manager Lou Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

"He threw tremendously well the last couple weeks of the season and certainly should go to camp with a great opportunity to pitch late in the game," Hendry said.

Wood would have to show he is able to pitch on three consecutive days without health issues before he could be a candidate for closer.

"He passed the test of holding up health-wise the last two months of the season, and our medical people feel that he's certainly still got something left in the tank," Hendry said.

Wood said he felt strong at season's end and feels his performance answered all questions about the condition of his shoulder. He said he would like to close but knows "it's not an easy job."

Asked about the possibility of being a starter again, the 30-year-old said it's probably best if he stays a reliever.

"Physically, I feel like I can do it," he said. "But I know what it takes to go out and eat up 200-plus innings. I know what kind of toll it takes on your body. With what I've been through, I don't know if it's wise of me to take that chance again right away."

Wood has a 72-57 career record with 3.67 ERA in part of nine seasons with the Cubs. He made an immediate impression when he struck out 20 Houston Astros in just his fifth major league start in 1998 and went 13-6 in that first season, helping the Cubs win the NL wild card.

He missed the 1999 season after elbow ligament replacement surgery.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press