Will Wood return to the Cubs?


Will Wood return to the Cubs?

Kerry Wood was initially thought to be a shoe-in to come back to the Cubs in 2012 and possibly beyond.

That may not be the case anymore.

As David Kaplan and his panel of guests discussed Tuesday on Chicago Tribune Live, he used to think there was no way Wood would pitch anywhere else next season, but he believes there may be a chance now.

"From what I hear, Kerry wants a fair contract," Kaplan said. "He took the short, small deal last year because the Cubs had financial issues in terms of their budget. Now, they don't have those issues. He wants to be paid like a fair setup guy and they have not come to an agreement yet on a deal."

That's worrisome.

It was just a week before Christmas that Wood's signing was considered "inevitable."

A month before that, Kap reported how Theo Epstein called upon Wood to talk openly and honestly about the state of the franchise and how they could change the culture. As Kap said then, Wood is the most respected voice in the Cubs' clubhouse on top of being one of the premier relievers in the game.

The fans absolutely adore him. It would not be good business sense for the new Cubs front office to skimp a player like that. If money is the real issue here (which it might not be, admittedly), is an extra 1.5 million or so worth alienating a clubhouse leader and fan favorite?

Hopefully a deal gets done and it's just taking a while because of the holiday and such.

Clayton Kershaw the latest to compare Kyle Hendricks to Greg Maddux

Clayton Kershaw the latest to compare Kyle Hendricks to Greg Maddux

LOS ANGELES - The best pitcher on the planet (besides Andrew Miller) compared Kyle Hendricks to the best pitcher of a generation. 

Clayton Kershaw will go up against Hendricks for the second time in the National League Championship Series in Game 6 Saturday at Wrigley Field and the Dodgers ace said he sees a little Greg Maddux in the young right-hander.

"He's kind of like the Greg Maddux of this generation, with his ability to sink the ball, cut the ball and put him in spots where hitters are enticed to swing at it, but you can't put the barrel on it," Kershaw said before Thursday's Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.

"He's really good at mixing speeds, changing it up. He's a tough guy to go against, for sure."

That's some high praise from a guy who's won three NL Cy Youngs (2011, 2013, 2014) and tallied four straight ERA titles from 2011-14.

Maddux won 355 games over a 23-year career and took home four straight Cy Youngs from 1992-95, a span in which he had a ridiculous .721 winning percentage (75-29) and 1.98 ERA.

Hendricks, of course, is in the Cy Young running this season and paced the big leagues with a 2.13 ERA.

In Game 2 at Wrigley Field, the two pitchers squared off in a pretty epic duel. The Dodgers wound up winning 1-0 on a second-inning wind-aided homer by Adrian Gonzalez.

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During the regular season, pitchers usually dismiss the notion that they're going up against the other starter, talking more about pitching to the opposing lineup than trying to match the other guy on the mound.

But in the postseason, runs are fewer and farther between, so pitching matchups come to the forefront.

"In the playoffs, it is a little more between the pitchers than it would be in the regular season," Hendricks said. "I only say that because regular season, you don't really look at it at all.

"In playoffs, you definitely look at it. I think that's the difference there, especially when you're going up against a guy like Kershaw. You know he's over there, so it makes it fun."

Kershaw shut down the Cubs - and the whole can't-pitch-in-the-postseason narrative - and gave his team a big lift in Game 2, silencing the Wrigley crowd.

Instead of going on short rest in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium, the club opted to keep Kershaw in their back pocket and try to neutralize the 40,000-plus Cubs fans in Game 6.

"He could definitely negate a phone booth," Maddon said. "This guy, when he's pitching well, he's just that good. There is that certain set of pitchers that are that guy and the confidence he brings to their group.

"There is no question about that. But at this time of the year, if you wanted to get to your ultimate goal, you have to beat people like that. You have to."

NLCS: Cubs sticking with resurgent lineup for Game 5

NLCS: Cubs sticking with resurgent lineup for Game 5

LOS ANGELES - Joe Maddon preaches keeping things simple, especially this time of year.

The Cubs finally broke out on offense in Game 4, so why change anything up for Game 5?

Of course, the starting battery will change, with Jon Lester taking the mound and his personal catcher David Ross behind the plate for what could be the final time together with Ross still slated to retire after the season.

After a one-game stint in the cleanup spot, Anthony Rizzo moved back to the three-hole and wound up with three hits - including his first postseason homer.

Addison Russell also had a breakout performance (three hits and a homer) in the eight spot, but moves up one spot in the order with "Grandpa Rossy" taking over the eight hole.

Willson Contreras is 6-for-15 (.400 AVG) this postseason, but sits in favor of Ross at catcher and Jason Heyward in the outfield with right-hander Kenta Maeda on the mound for the Dodgers.

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Here's the way the Cubs will line up behind Lester:

1. Dexter Fowler - CF
2. Kris Bryant - 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Ben Zobrist - LF
5. Javy Baez - 2B
6. Jason Heyward - RF
7. Addison Russell - SS
8. David Ross - C
9. Jon Lester - P

The Dodgers are still insisting they're sending Maeda to the mound and not starting Clayton Kershaw on short rest.

The lefty-heavy Dodgers inserted their right-handed lineup against southpaw Jon Lester:

1. Kike Hernandez - 2B
2. Justin Turner - 3B
3. Corey Seager - SS
4. Carlos Ruiz - C
5. Howie Kendrick - LF
6. Adrian Gonzalez - 1B
7. Yasiel Puig - RF
8. Joc Pederson - CF
9. Kenta Maeda - P

These are the same guys (just in a different order) the Dodgers threw out in Game 1 when Lester gave up one run in six innings.

Game 6 will be Saturday evening at Wrigley Field and a marquee pitching matchup of Kershaw vs. Kyle Hendricks.