Wood's shoulder stiff day after rough outing

Updated: March 27, 2007, 10:39 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MESA, Ariz. -- Kerry Wood's chances of being ready for Opening Day were dashed by another injury.

Starting Pitcher
Chicago Cubs

4 1 2 8 13 4.12

The Chicago Cubs' former ace hurt his right shoulder pitching in relief Sunday and was experiencing more stiffness than usual Monday, one week before the Cubs open the season in Cincinnati.

Wood will not be ready for the first game and will be placed on the disabled list.

"No, that's not going to happen," manager Lou Piniella said Monday. "Let's just hope it's not serious and he can resume preparing himself. Obviously, we'll give him time."

Wood appeared in only four games last season and was trying to make a comeback from a partially torn rotator cuff, an injury he chose to rehab rather than repair with surgery.

"Certainly this is a setback for him," Piniella said. "It's a shame, because Kerry has really worked hard, put in a lot of time over the winter, and he was disappointed in the setback."

Wood experienced soreness in his shoulder Sunday, when he allowed a homer and three runs in one inning against the Los Angeles Angels.

"He said he felt it yesterday during the game, and then it got achy," Piniella said. "Obviously, his strength wasn't the same. But he had more unusual stiffness and he had some soreness in his shoulder."

Wood was not available for comment Monday after a meeting in Piniella's office.

"Yesterday, he was upset. Today, he was more realistic about this. He's hoping for the best," Piniella said.

In his previous outing Friday, Wood pitched a scoreless inning of relief -- his first appearance in 12 days after being sidelined by a triceps injury. Earlier this spring, he slipped while getting out of a hot tub, setting him back a couple of days.

"We felt that by bringing him along slowly and not pushing him, that there was a reasonable expectation that he'd be ready by opening day," Piniella added.

It seems as though something always goes wrong for Wood, the 1998 NL Rookie of the Year who struck out 20 Houston Astros in his fifth major league start.

There was elbow ligament replacement surgery in 1999 and shoulder surgery in 2005. Now, Wood could be headed for the disabled list again. He's been there 10 times in his major league career.

"He's obviously put a lot of work in and you know obviously he wanted to be at the top of his game. He feels badly that he's not 100 percent," general manager Jim Hendry said. "Hopefully, we'll get him right and hopefully it won't be significant. It's not about helping us next Monday as much as helping us over the long haul."

The Cubs could also start the season without another pitcher who's been beset by injuries -- Mark Prior. Prior has made only three appearances this spring after being limited to nine starts last season by a sore shoulder.

Prior pitched well in his most recent outing last Thursday, giving up one run in four innings. He is scheduled to pitch Wednesday and a decision could be made after that appearance on how or where he will start the season. Wade Miller has pretty much sewed up the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

Wood (14) and Prior (18) combined for 32 wins in 2003 when the Cubs came within five outs of the World Series. In three years since, they have just 30 victories total, with Prior winning 18 games and Wood only 12.

"I felt all along that both of them would contribute," Piniella said. "I just wasn't sure about the timetable. And you know they are both coming off physical ailments, and in Woody's case he's learning a new position, pitching out of the bullpen as opposed to starting.

"So I felt that it probably would be a long shot to have both of them ready by Opening Day."

Wood returned to the Cubs this season with a one-year, $1.75 million deal that could be worth up to $6 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.