Wood on DL, could pitch out of bullpen

Wood on DL, could pitch out of 'pen

CHICAGO -- Kerry Wood is back on the disabled list and could next be pitching out of the Chicago Cubs bullpen.

The Cubs placed Wood on the 15-day DL on Monday with right-shoulder inflammation, retroactive to July 21. Rich Hill was recalled from Triple-A Iowa, and the left-hander made his first Major League start on Monday against the San Francisco Giants.

This is Wood's second stint on the disabled list this year. He missed some time in Spring Training because of soreness in his right shoulder, made five starts and then went on the DL May 3 with a strained shoulder. He did not return until June 29, and made five starts before his shoulder acted up again.

In Wood's last start July 20 against Cincinnati, he lasted three innings. In 10 starts with the Cubs, he's 3-3 with a 4.67 ERA.

Wood is expected to throw on the side Tuesday and Wednesday, and then the Cubs will re-evaluate how he feels and see if he's ready for a Minor League rehab assignment. He received a cortisone shot in his shoulder on Thursday.

"Hopefully, in the next few days this will have subsided completely," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "It's gotten a lot better and he's going to go on a rehab assignment and work out of the pen for a couple days."

Wood has spent his entire career as a starter, but the Cubs are considering switching him to a relief role to alleviate the strain on his shoulder.

"He won't necessarily be a long guy," Baker said. "We'll have to see how it's going to come out. This might be good for him in the short run, so we're going to try it."

Wood's take on the switch to the pen?

"Absolutely -- I don't care. If I just get one guy out and it helps us win, then I'll do that," Wood said. "I'd like to offer more than just one inning, but at this time, this is what I've been dealt. If I can get healthy and strong again shortly, then I'm going to try to get back out there and contribute somehow."

Will he be back in the Cubs rotation next year?

"I don't know," Wood said. "It's July. I haven't even looked to next month."

One thing the Cubs did not consider is shutting Wood down for the season.

"The doctors don't think we're at that point yet," Baker said. "When we get to that point, we're going to do what's best for the player."

Cubs athletic trainer Mark O'Neal said there have been no significant changes in Wood's shoulder, and that he has some mild irregularity in the labrum.

"It's not anything that would be any more abnormal from what you would see with most pitchers if you were to MRI every guy right now," O'Neal said.

Pitching in relief -- and obviously throwing fewer pitches -- should help.

"To get through this season, yes," O'Neal said. "He's been pretty consistent that once we get deep into games is when this thing starts flaring up on him. If we can avoid that by making it shorter stints, then I think he has a much better chance with that now."

The right-hander may need surgery in the offseason, but Wood and the Cubs will deal with that at that time. He may need a labral debridement in his right shoulder, similar to what St. Louis pitcher Matt Morris underwent last November. Morris started this season on the disabled list, and is 11-3 with a 3.42 ERA.

"At a minimum, we're looking at doing a diagnostic thing at the end of the season, so that addresses what needs to be addressed," O'Neal said. "There's a lot of irritation and rubbing that goes on in the throwing motion. The rotator cuff usually gets irritated and frayed, and the same with the labrum as well. Basically, you go in and clean that out."

Why wait?

"Because he still has a chance to help this team," O'Neal said. "If done at the end of the season, if it's just a simple debridement of the cuff and labrum, then he would be ready by Spring Training. Right now, we're just trying to get him back on the field."

Wood isn't thinking about surgery. Not yet. He missed the entire 1999 season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

"I'm just trying to get it to feel better so I can go out and pitch," Wood said. "If we get to that point [where he needs surgery], we get to that point. I haven't thought a whole lot about it yet."

Wood is 70-53 in 174 starts in his career, including a stellar 13-6 record in 1998, which helped him win National League Rookie of the Year. If pitching in relief can help Wood get back in the game, he'll do it.

"I'm in favor of whatever is going to stop my arm from hurting," he said. "It's as simple as that. At this time, we're to the point [where] it's going to rebound from the shot and I can continue to throw, or not.

"It's gotten a lot better the past couple days, and if I can continue to throw, then I'll be back out there. If not, then we'll have to look at another option."

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