It's official: Wood back at home with Cubs

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It's official: Wood back at home with Cubs

Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010
Posted 4:59 PM Updated 5:49 PM

CSNChicago.com

The Cubs have reached an agreement with Kerry Wood that will address their need for bullpen help and bring back a clubhouse leader.

Wood enjoys a strong relationship with general manager Jim Hendry and is making Chicago his permanent home. Those factors helped a Cubs team that has been looking for a right-handed reliever to pair with lefty Sean Marshall and closer Carlos Marmol during end-game situations.

Comcast SportsNets David Kaplan first reported that a deal was close on Wednesday night, and it was finalized Thursday at a discount. The Chicago Sun-Times had the contracts value at one year for 1.5 million, which should give Hendry some payroll flexibility this winter.

Wood who played 10 seasons in Chicago and will turn 34 in June has reinvented himself late in his career. He is a specialist, not the kid who struck out 20 in his fifth major-league start, and should be a veteran presence for a young bullpen.

The Cubs know all about Woods checkered medical history, but he excelled last season after a deadline trade from Cleveland to New York.

In the heat of a playoff race, Wood posted a 0.69 ERA across 24 games with the Yankees. He allowed only two runs in eight postseason innings, positioning himself nicely for free agency.

Wood could have been a difference-maker for the Yankees, Red Sox or any other contender looking to spend money, but it appears that he simply wanted to go home again.

Minor moves

Bill Dancy who spent more than three decades working in the Phillies and Royals organizations will take over for Ryne Sandberg as manager at Triple-A Iowa.

As part of the minor-league staff changes announced Thursday, Brian Harper, the catcher on the 1991 Twins World Series team, will replace Dancy as Double-A Tennessee manager. Mariano Duncan who was a part of the Dodgers major-league staff last season will be Tennessees hitting coach.

Former Cubs Jeff Fassero (Class-A Peoria pitching coach), Frank Castillo (Rookie-Mesa pitching coach) and Jason Dubois (Mesa hitting coach) have positions within the organization. Dennis Lewallyn (pitching) and Tom Beyers (hitting) were promoted to minor-league coordinators.

CSNChicago.coms Patrick Mooney contributed to this report.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Patrick Mooney goes one-on-one with Jed Hoyer

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Patrick Mooney goes one-on-one with Jed Hoyer

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull and Luke Stuckmeyer talk about the first week of spring training. 

The two discuss ace contracts, leadoff intimidation and give their thoughts on the Sammy Sosa saga. 

Plus CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Patrick Mooney goes one-on-one with general manager Jed Hoyer. 

Listen to the Cubs Talk Podcast below. 

Cubs eager to see the Jason Heyward relaunch in Cactus League

Cubs eager to see the Jason Heyward relaunch in Cactus League

MESA, Ariz. — Cactus League stats are supposed to be irrelevant, especially for the guy with the biggest contract in franchise history. Jason Heyward already built up a reservoir of goodwill as a former All Star, three-time Gold Glove defender and World Series champion. The intangibles got Heyward $184 million guaranteed, and the Cubs are hoping a new comfort level will lead to a Jon Lester effect in Year 2 of that megadeal.

But Heyward will still be one of the most scrutinized players in Mesa after an offseason overhaul that tried to recapture the rhythm and timing he felt with the 2012 Braves (27 homers) and break some of the bad habits that had slowly crept into his high-maintenance left-handed swing.

"If there's ever any doubt," Heyward said, "then you probably shouldn't be here."

Heyward will be batting leadoff and starting in right field on Saturday afternoon when the Cubs open their exhibition schedule with a split-squad game against the A's at Sloan Park. If Heyward has anything to prove this spring, it's "probably to himself, not to us," general manager Jed Hoyer said, backing a player who does the little things so well and commands respect throughout the clubhouse.

"There's going to be growing pains with making adjustments," Hoyer said. "He'll probably have some good days and some bad days. But I think the most important thing is that he feels comfortable and uses these five weeks to lock in and get ready for the Cardinals."

The Cubs are betting on Heyward's age (27), track record (three seasons where he showed up in the National League MVP voting), understanding of the strike zone (.346 career on-base percentage) and willingness to break down his swing this winter at the team's Arizona complex.

At the same time, Heyward realizes "it's just the offseason" and "a never-ending process in baseball." There are no sweeping conclusions to be made when the opposing starting pitcher showers, talks to the media and leaves the stadium before the game ends.

"I'm not sitting here telling you: 'Oh, I know for sure what's going to happen,'" Heyward said. "I don't know how it's going to go. But I know I did a damn good job of preparing for it."

[MORE CUBS: No hard feelings: Cubs and Pedro Strop look to future with contract extension]

Manager Joe Maddon — who gave Heyward nearly 600 plate appearances to figure it out during the regular season (.631 OPS) before turning him into a part-time outfielder in the playoffs (5-for-48) — usually thinks batting practice is overrated or a waste of time. But at 6-foot-5 — and with so much riding on an offensive resurgence — Heyward is hard to miss.

"I can see it's a lot freer and the ball's coming off hotter," Maddon said. "But it's all about game. I'm really eager for him, because everybody just talks about all the work he's done all winter.

"Conversationally with him, I sense or feel like he feels good about it and that he's kind of at a nice peaceful moment with himself. So it will be really fun to watch."

A 103-win season, an American League-style lineup that scored 808 runs, a new appreciation for defensive metrics and a professional attitude helped provide cover for Heyward, who largely escaped the wrath of Cubs fans with little patience for big-ticket free agents.

"Baseball is a game that's going to humble you every day," Heyward said. "You're going to fail more times than you succeed, so it's all about how you handle it, as an individual and as a group. We handled it the best out of anyone last year as a team. And that's why we were able to win the World Series.

"There's always things you feel like you need to work on. You can ask guys who had the best years — there's always something they're trying to improve on and something they don't feel great about at a certain point in time during the year.

"I just happened to have a little bit more breaking down to do. A lot of things allowed me to just kind of pause (and) look forward and not really think about trying to compete and win a game. Let's just get some work done."