Shoulder fatigue could end Kerry Wood's season
BY PAUL SULLIVAN
CLEVELAND - Kerry Wood faced the realistic prospect Wednesday that his season could be over because of lingering shoulder fatigue.
"With each day I get more and more doubts," Wood said. "You can't just give up. You have to keep going. (Trainer Mark O'Neal) has worked hard with me all year long. So we'll just keep going and keep working at it and hopefully it gets better."
Wood still is experiencing the effects of a 70-pitch simulated game on Tuesday during which he began to feel fatigued at around 60 pitches. The only encouraging news, he said, was doctors have told him there's nothing structurally wrong.
"I haven't damaged anything," he said. "If I had a torn rotator (cuff) or the labrum was bothering me, I wouldn't have been able to do what I did (Tuesday) at the intensity I did it at. We have to figure out why (when) I get to that 60-70 pitch mark it seems to shut down."
If Wood's season is finished, his Cubs career may be over as well. The Cubs have a $13.5 million option for `07, but are likely to exercise a $3 million buyout and perhaps negotiate an incentive-laden deal with a low base.
Wood signed a $32 million contract in spring training of 2004, but he has gone 12-15 with a 3.90 earned-run average since, throwing only 226 innings. The latest setback is the most discouraging because he worked 8 1/2 months to come back.
"I'm sure from talking to him, he's a little down about it," manager Dusty Baker said.
Wood's career began with a bang in 1998 when he tied a major-league record with 20 strikeouts in only his fifth career start. But the promise of a Hall of Fame-caliber career fizzled out thanks to numerous injuries over the last eight years.
Wood missed all of 1999 and the first month of 2000 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, then was out three more weeks in 2000 with a left oblique strain. He was on the disabled list for more than a month in 2001 with shoulder tendinitis, missed almost two months in 2004 with a triceps injury and missed three months last season with shoulder ailments, undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery Aug. 31.
This spring he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery while rehabbing the shoulder and was placed on the disabled list June 6 after making only four starts. Now his career is in limbo.
"It's kind of the same thing I felt my last few starts," Wood said. "My first 60 pitches or so I felt great. I threw the ball great, and then I just kind of hit that wall, and that's where we're at."
Can he stop throwing for a while to see if it calms down?
"I stopped throwing for seven or eight days [after my last start in Houston]," he said. "I felt great going out [Tuesday], but it got to the point where that was it. Today it doesn't feel too hot."
Wood has been told repeatedly that a slow recovery may be part of the rehabilitation process, but that's small consolation.
"It's still frustrating to listen to that and accept it," he said. "It needs to start feeling better."
There is no timetable for Wood's next bullpen session, and Wood admitted there is no blueprint for his return.
Wood said when he signed his $32 million deal in `04 he hoped he could end his career in a Cubs uniform. Now he's just hoping to prove he can be the pitcher who became a household name in Chicago at age 20.
"Pitching my way through it hasn't worked that well so far," he said. "I don't know what we're going to do. ..."
"Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork." - Willie Stargell on Sandy Koufax