Wood might need offseason surgery

Wood might need offseason surgery

ST. LOUIS -- Pitcher Kerry Wood, sidelined with a strained right shoulder, may need surgery this offseason to correct the problem, Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker said Sunday.

Wood, limited to 10 starts this year, played catch on Sunday with pitching coach Larry Rothschild. It's the second time he's thrown since receiving a cortisone shot on Thursday. The right-hander already has missed two months because of a strained shoulder and made five starts before experiencing discomfort again.

He came out of his last start on Wednesday against Cincinnati after three innings because of tightness in the shoulder.

The Cubs already have named left-hander Rich Hill as the starter on Monday, which would have been Wood's spot. However, the team has not decided whether to place Wood (3-3, 4.67 ERA) on the disabled list.

"It's a possibility," Baker said Sunday about the DL. "We'll know when we see Woody [Monday]. Larry said he was better today than yesterday, but still not quite Woody."

Asked if the Cubs had considered moving Wood to the bullpen in the future in an attempt to alleviate some of the strain on his shoulder, Baker said that's a "possibility," too.

"It all depends on what happens the rest of the year, No. 1, and No. 2, if indeed he may need a minor cleanout or something," Baker said. "It depends on how he responds. Right now, it's up in the air. We need Woody as a starter. To my knowledge, it's similar to what [Matt] Morris went through. He had a minor cleanout and is back throwing again."

Morris, the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, underwent a labral debridement in his right shoulder on Nov. 30, 2004, after going 15-10 in 32 starts. He opened this season on the disabled list and is 11-3 with a 3.42 ERA so far, including Saturday's loss to the Cubs.

"[Surgery] is always a possibility if things keep coming back because it's become chronic and we have to do something about it so this doesn't happen again," Baker said. "The doctors say structurally he couldn't do any more damage by [continuing to pitch]."

Cubs athletic trainer Mark O'Neal confirmed that the team has considered surgery, but emphasized if done, it would most likely be after the season was over.

"This has been a tough season for Woody and it's been a tough season for all of us," O'Neal said. "None of us want to take the chance of running through another season like we've gone through this year with the ups and downs. Obviously, Woody's health care is the most important thing here. The productivity of the team is a close second.

"We've got to make sure he's taken care of and his shoulder is taken care of," O'Neal said. "That being said, we're going to evaluate it at the end of the year. We'll see how this scenario plays out. We're not going to shut down at the end of the year and cross our fingers and hope that we're perfectly fine next year."

O'Neal said the Cubs are not considering any surgery now, saying "that's not where we are at at this point."

"If we continue our throwing program and things don't progress the way where we can get him to the level where he needs to be to compete, then obviously we've got to look into it more seriously," O'Neal said. "Right now, we're not thinking about that."

O'Neal said Wood has made significant improvement over the last four days. He said MRI exams have been consistent, and did not reveal any major structural damage.

"There's no significant changes in any of them and there's nothing jumping out saying, 'Hey, here's our problem,'" O'Neal said. "If he had anything significantly wrong with him, he would not be able to do what he's doing right now."

Rothschild said Wood felt better on Sunday, but was not ready to throw off the mound.

"We'll see where he is [Monday] and go from there," Rothschild said. "He was noticeably better, still not completely pain free, but a lot better. If he keeps getting better, then we'll keep progressing."

However, Wood could miss two starts. It all depends on how he feels Monday.

"He could have a good day and we could progress and he's right on schedule," Rothschild said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.