All systems go for Kerry Wood


All systems go for Kerry Wood

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. All that matters is Kerry Wood being ready for Opening Day.

Thats how the Cubs have framed this spring, while insisting theres nothing wrong. Wood went 11 days between games last month, and will finish with five innings in the Cactus League. If that doesnt sound like much, well, it doesnt concern a guy with more than 13 years of service time in the big leagues.

Thats a number I feel good, my body feels ready to go, Wood said, counting all the work hes done on the side. Ive been off the mound enough.

Manager Dale Sveum joked about Woods pitch count before Mondays 8-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Field at Talking Stick. The 34-year-old reliever had faced one batter in each of his last two appearances.

Well try to get him to 11, Sveum said. Maybe if he has to finish a batter, we might get him to 12.

Wood threw exactly 11 pitches in the fifth inning, striking out Willie Bloomquist looking before getting Aaron Hill and Justin Upton to ground out. He feels like his fastball and cutter are just about there after seven appearances this spring.

Wood hasnt spoken directly with Sveum about how much he wants to pitch this year or what his body can handle, but the Cubs plan to manage it more carefully.

The only thing I did tell (Sveum) is if something comes up where I cant go, Ill personally come in and talk to you, Wood said. I think I did it one time with (Mike) Quade last year where I said I might need a day today. I think theyre conscious of the up-and-downs (warming up) during the course of a game. So I dont think well be I wont say panic button I dont think hell get as many up-and-downs as we had last year.

The Cubs knew coming in that their bullpen would be a huge question mark after trading away Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner and slotting Jeff Samardzija in the rotation. They need Wood to be healthy, though he doesnt have a number of appearances in mind: The only time I ever think about it is when you guys (in the media) bring it up.

Wood appeared in 55 games last season even after missing three weeks with a blister problem and being shut down in September with a knee injury that required minor surgery. If the blisters are kept under control, he thinks 60-plus appearances wouldnt be unrealistic.

Woods workload appears to be a minor blip on the radar. Camp will end Tuesday, and it has been without almost any incidents, distractions or controversy.

Yeah, its funny, work must be getting in the way of that, Wood said. I still feel like I get there pretty early and Im one of the last guys there. These guys get here early (and) start working. I know (hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo) kept them after games a few times (too). So we havent had a lot of time for messing around.

Cubs hoping Kyle Schwarber can make World Series comeback

Cubs hoping Kyle Schwarber can make World Series comeback

As if the possibility of clinching their first National League pennant in 71 years didn't create enough drama and excitement in Wrigleyville, the Cubs have sent Kyle Schwarber to the Arizona Fall League, hoping he can add another chapter to his October legend.

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Schwarber earned this chance after beating every expectation in his recovery from major knee surgery in April. The Cubs haven't ruled anything in or out - and still need to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers one more time - but they want to see how he responds on Saturday with the Mesa Solar Sox and then decide if he would be a viable designated-hitter option for the World Series.

Jeff George Jr. gets start at QB for Illini vs. Michigan


Jeff George Jr. gets start at QB for Illini vs. Michigan

Jeff George Jr. got the start at quarterback for the Illini in Saturday's game against Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen first reported the news, with neither Wes Lunt nor Chayce Crouch able to play in Saturday's game, forcing George into starting duty.

Lunt was knocked out of Illinois' loss to Purdue two weeks ago and did not play last weekend against Rutgers. Crouch, who took over for Lunt against Purdue and rushed for 137 yards in that game, started in the win over Rutgers, but he apparently suffered a shoulder injury in that game.

George got a very small bit of action in this season's Week 1 win over Murray State, but this will be his first career start.

George is the son of Jeff George, the former Illinois quarterback who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft.