Kerry Wood to have season-ending shoulder surgery
With the Cubs nearly out of playoff competition -- eight games back in the wild-card race after Monday night's loss to the Dodgers -- the team wanted to give Wood as much time as possible for recovery and rehab.
Wood concurred with the decision, general manager Jim Hendry said.
"I got a bit of a small obstacle to overcome this offseason. I fully expect to be ready when camp starts," Wood said after pitching his final inning Monday night in a 9-6 loss.
Wood, who made his first major league relief appearance Aug. 5 in a switch from the rotation to alleviate the soreness in his shoulder. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Timothy Kremchek at Beacon Orthopedics outside of Cincinnati.
"None of us, including Dr. Kremchek, are anticipating anything significant, but it is a shoulder," Hendry said, adding that the long-range plan is for Wood to return to the rotation once he recovers.
"I think that is what we all want him to do. I think that's what he would like to do," Hendry said.
"If he can pitch pain-free and this ongoing discomfort he's had after a certain amount of pitches, if that can be rectified, then you are going to have the same guy you are seeing one inning for seven or eight. That's really everybody's priority."
Wood, the 1998 NL Rookie of the Year, missed the 1999 season after elbow ligament-replacement surgery. He was put on the DL with a triceps injury last season and has been on the disabled list twice this year with the sore shoulder.
Wood is 3-4 with a 4.23 ERA this season. He started 10 games and made 11 relief appearances, including a scoreless innings Monday night. His fastball in relief has been popping in the high 90s, and he's had no recurrence of the arm soreness, which generally would start after 50 or 60 pitches.
"I certainly don't think it could be a real significant injury. It's hard to believe someone could throw 98 mph and have a serious arm problem. He hasn't had any discomfort at all," Hendry said.
"I wouldn't be able to throw the way I've been throwing if there was something seriously wrong, something torn in there," Wood said.
"I'm expecting them to go in there and send me on my way."
Trainer Mark O'Neal said it's not uncommon for a pitcher who throws as hard as Wood and who has thrown as many pitches in the majors to have fraying or irritation in the rotator cuff area.
A cleanup procedure may be all that is necessary. That's what the Cubs expect.
"We are going to go in and try to find out what is going on," O'Neal said. "That's why we are doing what we're doing -- to find out why he does have this breakdown when the pitch count gets up a little."
O'Neal said if nothing significant is discovered during the procedure, Wood will be ready for spring training after an offseason of rehab.
As a 20-year-old rookie, Wood stunned the baseball world in his fifth major league start when he struck out 20 Houston Astros and pitched a one-hitter. He missed the following season after elbow surgery and then had win totals of 12, 12 and 14 from 2001 to 2003, a year in which when he won two games in the division series against Atlanta.
But with his arm problems and those of teammate Mark Prior, the Cubs have not made it back to the playoffs.
"It is what it is. Hope it comes out well and hope it's not anything serious," manager Dusty Baker said.
Wood has made no secret he wants to be a starter again, although he had struck out 17 of the 45 batters he had faced in relief before Monday.
Baker couldn't commit to that right away.
"It depends on the severity of his injury, how he feels upon recovery and upon rehab," Baker said. "I don't have any answer to that right now."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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