The ring isn't everything to Kerry Wood

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The ring isn't everything to Kerry Wood

This is the new Mr. Cub. Kerry Wood has too much invested here to leave now and become a mercenary and chase a ring.

Who knows how long the Cubs will be playing meaningful baseball this summer, or how much Wood will have left when theyre good again. But the 34-year-old reliever has spent almost half his life in this organization, and his family has made this city their home.

Ultimately, that outweighed the interest Wood received from contenders like the Detroit Tigers (before they signed Prince Fielder) and the Philadelphia Phillies. Thats why hes traveling to Arizona this week to begin spring training with a team that has almost no external expectations and is playing for the future.

Even if it took until the middle of January to agree on a one-year, 3 million deal that was synched up to the opening of the Cubs Convention. It was perfect public relations timing, though even chairman Tom Ricketts had to admit: We probably could have done it a little sooner.

One offer from an unidentified team got to the point where Wood thought he was going to take a physical.

It was a three-week rollercoaster there for a little while I was in four different cities, Wood said Monday night before the Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. It worked out perfect. This is where we want to play. But, yeah, its definitely tempting to go win a ring. Thats why we play the game.

If I (had) won a ring with the Yankees in 2010 that would have been great. But I dont think it would have meant as much as spending the time that you spend here on all the bad teams and then turning it around and getting so close. It means more for me (to) be part of a winning organization that maybe turns some things around.

There were veteran guys when I was younger I still remember things that they told me and that still helps. I dont want to be labeled as that guy, but its nice to tell a young kid something and see them go out and figure it out and have success.

Wood can still pitch, but this is a team that will need that presence in the clubhouse.

This winter, the Cubs were content to let the media feed the perception that they were in on all the big-ticket items, and then watch them all the fall off the board: Albert Pujols; Yu Darvish; Fielder; and Yoenis Cespedes, who on Monday agreed to a reported four-year, 36 million deal with the Oakland As.

Looking toward 2014 and beyond, Theo Epstein showed no desire to make a splash, instead buying low on young players with potential upside who are under club control. The new president of baseball operations might be the only one with the credibility to sell a long-term rebuilding process to the fan base.

If these fans are going to be patient, this is the guy theyre going to be patient with, Wood said. Hes got a track record with what he did in Boston and turning that organization around and bringing (that) city (the) championship they desperately wanted and needed for so long.

He was the guy that got it done there. Does it mean hes going to do it here? There (are) no guarantees, but hes got a great owner he works for and hes in the best city, in my opinion, for baseball. He gets the owner on his side and the fans on his side hell do great things.

Epstein has promised that the Cubs will build a sustainable model where theyre playing in October every year. Wood, whos about to begin his 16th season in the organization, has lived through the boom-and-bust cycles at Clark and Addison. His contract includes a 3 million club option for 2013.

At this point, its one year, Wood said. At this stage of the career, I think its a re-assess at the end of the year to take a few weeks off and see where everythings at and see if its something that I want to continue to do. But I feel like Ive got two or three years left. My body feels good.

Theres no announcement or anything (like): This is going to be the last one.

It seems like Wood enjoys not being the story anymore. He understands the pulse of the city better than most players, and knows that right now no ones making big predictions.

Its Chicago, Wood said. Its a result-oriented city. Thats just the way it goes, especially with baseball on the North Side. I dont think anyones expecting us to walk out there and run away with the thing and win the World Series. (Thats) a little delusional. But I think weve got a good enough team to surprise some people and compete in our division.

If any of those future core players emerge in 2012, they might follow Woods example, and ask him about doing your job while handling the spotlight, and what it might be like if the Cubs ever win.

Preview: Cubs open series with Pirates tonight on CSN

Preview: Cubs open series with Pirates tonight on CSN

The Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Catch first pitch at 6 p.m. with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Kyle Hendricks (15-8, 2.06 ERA) vs. Chad Kuhl (5-3, 3.73 ERA)

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David Ross helps Cubs edge Cardinals in regular season home finale

David Ross helps Cubs edge Cardinals in regular season home finale

CHICAGO — David Ross got fired up when Cubs manager Joe Maddon walked to the mound with two out in the seventh inning, ready to argue for Jon Lester to stay in the game.

Maddon and Lester had a different plan.

"Joe looked at him and said 'Have you ever been a part of where the catcher gets taken out of the game before the pitcher?'" Lester said, describing the scene with a big grin. "You can just see him, it's like the kid at the candy store when you tell him he can pick out whatever he wants.

"It was just like the disbelief in his face and slams his mask back over his face and all he can say is 'I love you guys. I love you guys. I love you guys.'"

Ross then walked off to another standing ovation from a raucous crowd of 40,859 at Wrigley Field, part of a heartwarming Sunday night for the backup catcher in his last season. He also hit his 10th homer and teamed with Lester for another scoreless performance, helping the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

"It was an amazing night," Ross said.

Ben Zobrist had three hits and scored two runs as Chicago finished with a major league-best 57-24 home record. It's the most home wins for the Cubs since they went 58-19 at the West Side Grounds in 1910.

The Cardinals lost for the third time in four games, wasting a chance to improve their playoff positioning. They remain a half-game back of San Francisco for the second NL wild card after the Giants lost 4-3 at San Diego earlier in the day.

"I think we're in a good position right now," pitcher Carlos Martinez said through a translator. "I also think we have a great shot at winning the World Series."

Ross, Lester's regular catcher, was greeted with a long standing ovation when he came to the plate in the second inning. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina walked halfway to the mound, forcing the unassuming Ross to take in the moment, and he took off his batting helmet to acknowledge the cheering crowd.

Ross then struck out, but he got another chance in the fifth and drove Martinez's second pitch over the wall in left for 1-0 lead. Ross clapped his hands as he rounded first on his 10th homer and the cheers continued after he reached the dugout, prompting a curtain call.

"It was just fitting that David would hit a home run, isn't it?" Maddon said. "I mean it had to have happened tonight."

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Lester (19-4), one of the top candidates for the NL Cy Young Award, struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander allowed three hits and walked one while improving to 10-0 with 1.34 ERA in his last 13 starts.

It was Lester's idea to pull Ross in the middle of an inning.

"He's like a brother to me and for him to give me that was pretty cool," Ross said.

The Cardinals pulled within one on Jhonny Peralta's two-out RBI single in the eighth, but Brandon Moss flied to center with runners on the corners. Willson Contreras responded with an RBI single in the bottom half and Aroldis Chapman worked the ninth for his 16th save with the NL Central champions and No. 36 on the year.

Martinez (15-9), pitching with a heavy heart after the death of Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident, allowed two runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked four.

"He had lots of juice," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's probably the hardest sinker I've ever seen him throw. A couple of those were 97 (mph). He was locked in. He wanted it bad today, and he was good enough for us to win."