All systems go for Kerry Wood

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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.

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. But putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Robin Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting as the Paul Zipser played heavy minutes and even finished out the game on the floor.

Zipser scored 13 and Nikola Mirotic scored 11 off the bench, with Jimmy Butler scoring 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes.

Phillips DT Chris Elmore commits to Syracuse

Phillips DT Chris Elmore commits to Syracuse

Phillips senior three-star ranked defensive tackle Chris Elmore (6-foot-0, 270 pounds) has given Syracuse his verbal commitment while on his official visit.

Elmore, who first announced his decision via his Twitter account, was asked why he decided to commit to the Orangemen.

"(Syracuse) is the place for me," according to Elmore via text. "I just feel it and I didn't want to pass up a chance to play for Syracuse and in the ACC."

Elmore, who originally gave then Western Michigan head coach PJ Fleck his verbal commitment back last summer reopened his recruiting process once Fleck left WMU to take the head coaching job at Minnesota.

Elmore is now the 20th known verbal commitment to Syracuse and the first from Chicagoland in the Class of 2017.