Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Now I'm A Reliever!
2007-02-28 14:55
by Phil Bencomo

Kerry Wood feels good:

''It felt great,'' Wood said [of his 27-pitch workout]. ''Just the location wasn't where I wanted it. The slider wasn't where I wanted it. But my arm felt great. I had pretty decent pop on the ball and got a little feedback from the guys.''

"He's still not caught up, but his arm speed's there and his velocity's pretty much there,'' [pitching coach Larry] Rothschild said. ''It's just a matter of sharpening things up and getting out there enough and really keeping him healthy.''

The Cubs aren't holding Wood back, Rothschild said. They're just making sure he gets his work in.

Wood, 29, said he appreciates the normal feeling of that work this year -- no extra treatments and lengthy warmup sessions to prepare for a throwing session.

''That's the biggest difference,'' he said. ''I'm not really concerned about the shoulder right now.''

Encouraging words, though the Cubs have yet to schedule the new reliever's Cactus League debut.

Also encouraging:

Wood '04-'06 ERA W L IP BB SO AVG
Starter 4.00 12 14 214 80 217 .243
Reliever 2.25 0 1 12 5 17 .100

Small sample size, yes, but moving Wood to the bullpen looks to be a very wise, if not several-years-too-late, move.

But wait, more encouragement!

2000 57% 51%
2001 61% 56%
2002 61% 56%
2003 61% 55%
2004 64% 56%
2005 63% 54%
2006 65% 58%

As a pitcher, Wood appears to be maturing, as the percentage of strikes thrown and first-pitch strikes continue to trend upward. And as a reliever, both of those skills are necessary for success.

* * * * *

Oh, and apologies to Neil Diamond.

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