Wood's outing deceptively a good one

Wood's outing deceptively good

PEORIA, Ariz. -- If you look at the linescore, Kerry Wood's second Cactus League outing Thursday wasn't as impressive as his first. But it was better, the Cubs right-hander said.

Wood gave up four runs, all earned and all on Terrmel Sledge's grand slam, in one inning while striking out three in the Cubs' 8-6 win over San Diego.

In his first outing on Monday against Seattle, Wood threw 12 pitches and easily retired the three batters he faced. On Thursday, he needed 21 pitches; 14 were strikes.

He faced seven San Diego batters, but should've been out of the inning sooner. Geoff Blum led off with a bloop single just out of reach of shortstop Cesar Izturis into shallow left. Wood hit the next batter, then struck out Paul McAnulty. Oscar Robles flew out to left.

Pinch-hitter Pete Laforest then struck out swinging, but the third strike was a wild pitch that got away from catcher Henry Blanco, and the bases were loaded. Wood had gotten ahead, 0-2, in the count and thought he struck out Laforest on the third pitch, but it was called a ball. Sledge followed with his grand slam on a 1-0 pitch. Wood then fanned Todd Walker to end the inning.

"I think I had better stuff this time than I did the last time," Wood said. "My stuff was a little better this time. The results obviously weren't the same, but I felt I threw the ball very similar. The slider was better, the results weren't."

All Cubs manager Lou Piniella wanted was a repeat performance from his first outing.

"In Spanish, it's 'bastante,'" Piniella said. "Enough."

Wood just missed on the location to Sledge.

"We were obviously trying to go away and not give him something he could turn on, and I missed by about 12 inches and he was able to turn on it," Wood said.

"He had real good stuff," Piniella said after the game. "With him, what we want to do is keep him pitching. We want him to stay nice and healthy. It was an inning -- you've heard of the bloops and the blasts. That was somewhat of that."

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The next step will be to cut down the time between appearances, and pitch every other day rather than get as many days off between outings. Eventually, Wood hopes to make consecutive appearances. Right now, there's no pain or stiffness in his right shoulder, and that's the best news.

"I feel great," Wood said. "I'm having a good time doing this. I have fun waking up and not being in pain, and going out and throwing and not having to get treatment and warm up and stretch just to play catch. I can get up and go like everybody else in camp."

It used to take Wood an hour and a half of treatment just to play catch from 60 feet.

"It's nice to get up and be like everybody else," he said.

Limited to four starts last season because of a troublesome right shoulder, Wood was diagnosed with a partial tear of his right rotator cuff. He opted to rehab rather than have surgery, and so far, it looks like the right decision. He's not looking too far ahead.

"I've got three more weeks to fine-tune things," Wood said. "I want to be able to move the slider around better than I have been. Now we've been trying to get it over for a strike. We'll keep working on things for the next couple weeks."

It's a new and improved Kerry Wood. He's got to get used to sitting in the bullpen. It was pretty hot in Peoria on Thursday. He even chatted with home plate umpire Travis Reininger as he left the field.

"I didn't know him and I hadn't met him before," Wood said. "Just a little conversation. Maybe I can get a little better relationship with the umpires than I've had in the past. We'll see how long it lasts."

Then he laughed. It's easy to smile when you're feeling good.

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