CHICAGO -- Kerry Wood was able to play catch for five minutes Saturday, the first time the Chicago Cubs pitcher has thrown a ball since his last start April 30.
Cubs athletic trainer Mark O'Neal said Saturday the MRI scan on Wood's right shoulder showed significant improvement.
"The inflammation that he had in the muscle and the back of his shoulder has resolved," O'Neal said. "There's minimal to no inflammation in there. We're taking that as a very positive sign and moving forward with starting a 'return to throwing' program."
Wood's progress will be monitored daily, O'Neal said.
"It's almost like we have to go through Spring Training," O'Neal said. "We have to get some arm strength built up before we can do anything. He hasn't picked up a ball in three weeks and the last time he threw it wasn't a productive throw. It's almost like we're starting from ground zero."
Wood made five starts before he had to be shut down, and was 1-1 with a 6.15 ERA, giving up 18 earned runs over 26 1/3 innings. The right-hander had shoulder problems in Spring Training, but was able to start the season.
Backup backstop: Michael Barrett was available only to pinch-hit on Saturday, sidelined again by a sore right shoulder. However, Jose Macias is ready if needed.
Henry Blanco started at catcher for the Cubs but Macias is the emergency backup. On Friday, he went to the bullpen and warmed up Michael Wuertz to get a feel for the position. The Cubs had hoped Macias would catch in Spring Training but a hamstring injury limited him.
"If it's an emergency, I can do it," Macias said.
He borrowed Barrett's glove, the clubhouse helmet and mask, and conditioning coordinator Tim Busse's shin guards.
"I've got everybody's stuff," Macias said.
He's got experience. Macias did catch New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera in Panama, which is their native country. Macias also can pitch in a pinch. He threw three innings in a Caribbean World Series game, and picked up the win, although that was back in 1993.
When he played for Detroit, Macias tried to talk then-Tigers manager Phil Garner into letting him play all nine positions. Garner didn't go for it.
No one has tried to steal on him.
"I've got a good arm," Macias said.
Cubs manager Dusty Baker did seek other options.
"I asked Enrique Wilson [if he could catch] and his eyes got real big," Baker said.
Start me up: The Cubs offense has been scuffling, and even though no one is making excuses, there is the reality that they're hurting because of who's missing.
"We're still not operating on full cylinders," Baker said. "Our middle infield is [made up of guys who are] basically supposed to be our utility guys. You lose Nomar [Garciaparra] and you lose [Todd] Walker, two guys you counted on to offset some of the offense you lost -- these guys [now playing] are doing the best they can do."
Todd Walker / 2B
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
Garciaparra, a two-time batting champion, is out with a groin injury, while Walker is rehabbing at Triple-A Iowa.
Walker is hitless in 19 at-bats for Iowa after Friday's 8-5 loss to Fresno in a game played in Des Moines.
"When you lose five weeks, you can't just jump back into the big leagues," Walker told the Des Moines media. "I'm trying to find it again. I thought it would take three days, but it didn't, so I'm just down here until I feel better."
Walker sprained his left knee in a collision April 10, and had hoped to be back with the Cubs this weekend.
"My knee's fine," Walker said. "Now it's all about getting back into shape.
"You never know when you're going to start feeling like yourself again," Walker said. "All of a sudden -- it just happens."
Start me up, Part II: Corey Patterson was in the sixth spot again on Saturday. The Cubs are trying to find the right spot for him.
Corey Patterson / CF
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
"Before he was hurt [in July 2003], he was well on his way," Baker said of Patterson. "Since then, he's shown flashes. A No. 3 hitter usually walks more. A three hitter and your five hitter need to be real good RBI guys. The department he has to improve on most is runners on third and less than two outs."
Patterson entered Saturday's game batting .250 with runners on, and .235 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Rookie Jason Dubois did start on Saturday. He's another player the Cubs hope to get going offensively. Dubois entered the game batting .167 in his last 10 games. Baker remembers when he was first given a regular job.
"When they made me a regular, I got four hits the first day, three the second, and three the next day," he said. "Back in my day it was different than now. Now, everybody wants to win but they want extended chances. In my day, you had one or two games to make an impact. There's a whole lot more competition for those jobs. If you didn't make an impact, somebody else would get action."
Do the Cubs need to make a change in personnel? If so, Baker won't say.
"I've never complained about what I need or who I have on my team," he said. "I've never said, 'Give me this, give me that.' I say that to my general manager. That's between me and him. I've learned the way I've been raised by my dad, don't complain about what you've got. We'll do with what we've got."
Playstation: Minnesota pitcher Johan Santana told Sports Illustrated he's benefitted from playing baseball games on his Playstation and facing the team he will be starting against that day. Cubs pitcher Glendon Rusch is a huge Playstation fan, but had never thought about using it to help him prepare.
"I think it was three, four years ago, I played one of the Major League Baseball games on Playstation and my nephew beat me, 20-1, and he was five [years old]," Rusch said. "That's my skill level on that. I play basketball on the portable one. I've never really played the baseball one."
Asked if he'd consider using the game to help him for his game, Rusch laughed.
"I never thought of it like that," he said. "They do pitch almost the same way you pitch and it's pretty neat."
Extra bases: Joe Borowski was giddy after his one inning of work on Friday. Baker said he'll ease the right-hander into situations. ... No word yet on who will start Tuesday's game against Houston. That's the first time the Cubs will need a fifth starter. The Cubs will go with Glendon Rusch on Monday against Andy Pettitte, face Roger Clemens on Tuesday, and send Greg Maddux against Brandon Backe on Wednesday. All are night games.
Minor matters: Darren Oliver gave up five runs on 10 hits over five innings and struck out four for Triple-A Iowa on Friday. Geovany Soto was 3-for-4 with two RBIs. ... Jae-Kuk Ryu gave up three runs on five hits over six innings as Double-A West Tenn beat Birmingham, 7-3. Brian Dopirak was 3-for-5 with three RBIs. ... Eric Patterson was 1-for-4 with the game-winning hit in the ninth inning for Class A Peoria in a 3-2 win over Dayton.
On deck: The Cubs conclude this Interleague series on Sunday, sending Mark Prior to the mound. Prior ranks among the NL leaders in ERA, and is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in two career starts against the White Sox.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.