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Wood Back

By Benjy Lipsman in News on May 18, 2006 12:12PM

2006_03_sports_kerrywood.jpgChicagoist knows a thing or two about coming back, with a lot of pressure to better the situation. We stepped off a 15-hour flight and headed into the office just yesterday, after 10 days away.

Will the Cubs' Kerry Wood encounter similar looks of relief from his teammates and fans tonight, returning to the mound for the first time since his August '05 surgery.

Having gone from 4 games above .500 to 5 games under .500 since the beginning of May, the Cubs desperately need some help. They held their own throughout April, even without Wood or Mark Prior. Even after losing Derrek Lee to injury. May has been a different story, but they're still close enough, and there's still a whole bunch of games to play. It's still possible to climb back into the race if these guys can return and stay healthy.

Wood has lots of incentive to try and pitch well now that he's back. On top of trying to help the Cubs into the playoffs, his address for 2007 will depend on how he performs over the rest of the season. He could still get in 24 starts over the remainder of the season, which would be enough to show the Cubs what he can do. He's not 100% yet, but can he get there quickly and stay that way? Can he possibly prove to them he's worth the $13.5 million option they hold for 2007?

Otherwise, they'll pay the $3 million buyout and hope to negotiate a new contract with him. With that option, they risk losing him as a free agent. They could also trade him, should he pitch well enough, to some other team who's still in contention come late July. With some of the young starters showing promise since they've been forced into the rotation, is it time for the Cubs to write off Wood and move on? How he performs tonight, and in coming starts, will help the Cubs decide.