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Slow pace to spring suits Wood just fine

Slow pace to spring suits Wood just fine

Slow pace to spring suits Wood just fine
MESA, Ariz. -- Kerry Wood is scheduled to pitch Saturday and will have at least one more tuneup before the regular season starts. That's all the Cubs right-hander apparently needs.

"I know what I need to get ready," Wood said Monday. "We talked, and the number was eight to 10 innings before camp started. I've done plenty of throwing. It's just getting comfortable with secondary pitches."

Last year, Wood totaled nine innings in nine Cactus League games, and in the last six years, he has pitched in as many as 12 2/3 innings in '08 when he was the team's closer. But this spring, the team decided to slow things down. So far, he's appeared in four games for a total of 3 1/3 innings. The only time Wood has thrown fewer than six innings in Spring Training in the last six years was in 2007 when he reached five, then was shut down and began the season on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, and also in 2010 when he suffered a strained right lat after two innings in two games.

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"I really just slowed it down," Wood said of this spring. "I got off to such a fast start and I wanted to time it so we're ready to roll when the season starts. I've got three or four outings planned down the stretch and I'll be ready for Opening Day."

He did have some back spasms but that was before the Cactus League season began. He has not pitched in a game since March 18 but has done side work, including a session last Tuesday.

"Going into Spring Training, we wanted seven to 10 innings, and we'll probably get somewhere around there at the end of this," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "These guys know how to throw strikes and keep the ball in the strike zone. It's a long, long spring for guys who have had issues and stuff, and you try to monitor everything to make sure they're ready for Opening Day and they can sustain a whole season."

Part of the "issues and stuff" is age. Wood is 34. There are also injuries. Wood is coming off arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, which shut him down last Sept. 19.

Sveum has watched other pitchers who didn't want much game action to get ready, such as John Axford, Salomon Torres and Trevor Hoffman. Wood and Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio talked about what type of pace they wanted this spring.

"I just want to stay where I'm at," Wood said. "I want to stay consistent with the breaking ball. I've had a good spring working on that, probably more than I have normally in Spring Training, and just command. You need to have a second pitch and have command of your fastball when you break camp. I'm trying to be fresh for the start of the year."

Because of the "issues and stuff," the Cubs also are in need of a backup setup pitcher in case Wood needs a breather. That has yet to be determined, although Rafael Dolis could be a candidate.

"You'd like a bullpen to be like the Giants were a couple years ago when they had seven setup men and a closer," Sveum said. "You're always looking for those things."

For some players, Spring Training can seem too long.

"It's needed," Wood said. "We need to get in there and face hitters. I drilled [Starlin] Castro, my first hitter [in live batting practice] this spring, so we need to see guys in there. Also, you start ramping it up at the end of camp and get ready for the season and you're getting better at-bats, the hitters are catching up and you're getting a better read on how your stuff is. I think sometimes it feels a little long but definitely it's needed."

Wood didn't base his program on any other pitcher.

"I based it on myself," he said. "I based it on where I came in to camp and how much throwing we did right away. I really didn't want to be firing as good as I was when I first came out, so it was actually kind of nice to slow it down a little bit."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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