Wood was expected to make at least two Minor League starts before he would be ready to be activated. He last started for the Cubs on April 30, and has been sidelined since then with a strained right shoulder. He has taken advantage of the time off to fine-tune his mechanics.
"Hopefully, this time off and the things he's been working on over a period of time, you might even see a new and improved 'Woody,' which is already pretty good," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "He's been working on it. He's champing at the bit. He wants to pitch and he wants to help us win."
Wood had a final side session on Saturday. Mark Prior, on the disabled list with a compressed fracture in his right elbow, also threw off the mound Saturday, although it was more to work on his mechanics than build up arm strength. He will throw again on Sunday.
"I still have some pain at times when I start hammering down and get full extension," Prior said. "I think we finally got to the point where I've got full extension. There's still some discomfort, and there's a lot at times. We're trying to work through it and get back as quick as I can and keep my arm strength so I don't have to do a lot when I am ready to go."
Congratulations: Nomar Garciaparra received his 2004 World Championship ring on Friday night from Boston catcher Jason Varitek and some of the other Red Sox players in town for the Interleague series. Garciaparra began the '04 season on the disabled list with a sore Achilles, and batted .321 in 38 games before he was traded to the Cubs. The Red Sox presented rings to everyone who played for them last year, even if it was only one inning.
"I got it -- and it fits," Garciaparra said of the ring.
Some like it hot: It's been sweltering at Wrigley Field, which prompted reliever Ryan Dempster to spray the bleacher fans with water before Saturday's game.
"I like to hit in this weather," Baker said. "The pitchers usually don't go as long in this weather, and if they have a long inning, it can drain you. We always said hot weather is hitting weather."
However, the Cubs have to be careful. Catcher Michael Barrett was cramping on Friday because of the heat.
"I told him his body forgot he's from Atlanta," Baker said.
Heating up: Todd Hollandsworth knew it was only a matter of time. This month, he's 9-for-22 (.409) in seven games, a welcome improvement over his .111 May.
"The way you get out of [a slump] is opportunity, and I'm being afforded that now," Hollandsworth said Saturday. "You have to remain positive and optimistic that it'll come around. That's why I'm grateful to Dusty. You see guys who go through it. I've got a lot of good buddies who have gone through it. It's hard to be judged on 100 games, but it's hard to be ignored when you're hitting .200. You hope the opportunity comes around so you can play at the level you're used to playing at."
On Friday against Boston, Hollandsworth was 2-for-5 with a two-run homer and RBI double. He's hitting .238 overall but he's shown signs.
"I believe in 'Holly,'" Baker said. "It's a matter of him believing in himself. He has the skills. He can run, he can throw, he has power, he can hit. The last few games, he's starting to wake up and starting to swing the bat well again.
"You just can't turn it on and off like a button," Baker said. "Hitting is a very difficult thing to do."
And Hollandsworth knows that.
"This is probably the hardest stretch of time in baseball that I've ever gone through," Hollandsworth said. "The second one was after my broken leg in 2001. I'm the kind of player who functions on repetition. Being afforded the ability to go out there every day helps get through it. Sometimes it takes time.
"I still have an uphill climb to get to where I want to be," he said. "You just take it one pitch at a time."
Extra bases: John Koronka is on schedule to pitch Monday night in the first game against the Florida Marlins. The Cubs moved Glendon Rusch ahead of Koronka to start Sunday night against the Red Sox. ... The American League teams are keeping the Cubs pitchers on their toes. "Boston, when they're hitting, they're off the chart," Baker said. "Against the American League, you better score some runs. It's more of an offensive league." ... How relaxed is Carlos Zambrano? He was asking a Japanese TV crew how to say hello in Japanese before batting practice on Saturday. When he did it for the camera, they gave him a T-shirt which says in Japanese, "No tricks, straight duel."
Minor matters: Jerome Williams made his third start for Triple-A Iowa Friday, and gave up one earned run on seven hits and no walks over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out six in Iowa's 6-5 loss to Nashville. Mike Fontenot was 2-for-4 with an RBI. ... Jae-Kuk Ryu gave up three runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings in West Tenn's 11-8 loss to Mississippi. Yorkin Ferreras gave up six runs (two earned) in one inning to take the loss. ... Brian Dopirak was 2-for-4 in Daytona's 6-5 win over Jupiter. Dopirak had a double and one RBI. ... Luis Montanez hit a three-run walk-off homer in the 11th inning to help Peoria beat Beloit 6-3. Montanez was 2-for-6 with a double, homer and four RBIs.
On deck: The Cubs will close this Interleague series under the lights Sunday night. Glendon Rusch will start for Chicago against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who is no stranger to Wrigley Field. He pitched here as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.