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

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

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

"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

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