Wood, Marmol and the shape of Cubs bullpen

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Wood, Marmol and the shape of Cubs bullpen

PHILADELPHIA Kerry Wood gave a thumbs-up review of his simulated game and kept walking through the clubhouse: It went good. Thanks.

Wood threw around 22 pitches on Monday at Citizens Bank Park. If the right shoulder responds, the Cubs hope to activate him by Thursday or Friday.

Wood hasnt appeared in a real game since April 13, and went on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue thats been bothering him occasionally since the beginning of spring training.

Well just see how everything goes the next couple days, manager Dale Sveum said. If everything goes according to plan where the bullpens not all beat up, it will probably be Thursday.

The Cubs arent going to overload their 3 million setup man. The emergence of 24-year-old Rafael Dolis (1-1, 3.38 ERA, one save, two holds) gives them another option. Wood wont automatically work the eighth inning right away.

(To) just take a little stress off the whole situation when he first comes back, Sveum said, we could possibly just move him into the seventh-inning role and see what happens there. But well talk about that in the next few days.

The Cubs have had trouble getting the ball to Carlos Marmol, a consequence of their spotty offense. Sveum believes that helps explain why the closer has been so erratic.

Marmol saved a game on April 8, and didnt get another chance until April 24 (which he couldnt convert). He had a five-run cushion on Sunday and walked three batters and forced in a run before getting the final out in Sundays 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Hes just got to understand (his) fastball, Sveum said. Hes thrown 62 fastballs this year and hes given up one hit, so he shouldnt be afraid to throw that thing.

Hes not a guy thats going to paint corners. Just knowing that you dont have to go to the slider all the time is the big thing. When your fastballs not getting hit and theres not a lot of hard contact when its in the zone have some confidence.

He needs to pitch more and that will help him, too. Hes one of those guys that needs to pitch and have more of a feel for everything out there on the mound because hes a max-effort guy.

Marmol (0-1, 5.87 ERA) stressed that he doesnt want to make any excuses. But he acknowledged that it hasnt been easy to stay sharp under these circumstances.

Yeah, man, everybody knows that, Marmol said. Ten, 15 days without a save opportunity you go out there and try to do your best. Its going to be tough. You give your best that day.

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Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Toronto Raptors tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Bulls get one on the Bucks? The Bulls are 0-3 against the Bucks so far this season and it hasn't been pretty. The Bucks have won the previous three meetings all by double digits and by an average of 19 points. The youth and athleticism of the Bucks has been a tough matchup for the Bulls so far.

2. Containing Giannis. There may be no stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Bulls can at least try to contain him. Antetokounmpo is averaging 23 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. In three games against the Bulls this year he has averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest. If the Bulls are to stay in the game, they will need to keep him to numbers lower than that.

3. Playoff implications. The Bulls playoff hopes are still alive with nine games remaining, but things are looking a bit bleak. The Bulls are a game and a half out of the eighth playoff spot, but only 3.5 games behind two teams tied for the No. 5 seed, the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks have won three in a row to improve their position.

4. Mirotic on a roll. Streaky play is nothing new to Nikola Mirotic, but he's on a good run currently. After scoring a season-high 28 points on Wednesday against the Pistons, Mirotic followed that up with 15 points against the 76ers. Since missing three straight games earlier this month, Mirotic has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games and is averaging 15.6 points during that stretch.

5. Beginning of a tough stretch. The Bulls' playoff hopes could be made or broken in the next three games. After taking on the Bucks, which occupy a playoff spot, the Bulls host two more Eastern Conference playoff teams in Cleveland and Atlanta. The Bulls need to string some wins together and this is not an easy stretch to do so against.

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