Cubs set with Wood's pending return
Closer battling blister as Chicago stands pat at Deadline
MILWAUKEE -- Closer Kerry Wood threw a simulated game Thursday, and when he's eventually activated, he could be the only addition the Cubs make heading into the final two months of play.
The Cubs got a head start on other teams and the Trade Deadline when they acquired Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin on July 8, swinging a deal with the Oakland Athletics. Rookie Jeff Samardzija could be the fresh arm the bullpen is looking for, especially with Wood sidelined indefinitely.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry and manager Lou Piniella did talk Thursday prior to the 3 p.m. CT Trade Deadline.
"We talked this morning, and really the consensus was, 'Let's stay the way we are," Piniella said. "We're happy with the alignment that we have. One of the things that's helping our pitching is the good defensive play that we're putting on the field, and we didn't want to change that formula. We stayed the way we are, and now we go get them.
"We have enough personnel to rest our team like we were doing earlier in the year. Let's stay away from injuries and keep playing baseball, and we'll do just fine."
Wood, who has not thrown since July 11 because of a nagging blister on his right index finger, threw about 26 pitches with bullpen catchers Corey Miller and Edgar Tovar as the hitters. Thursday was Miller's birthday.
"I'll always remember what I did on my 32nd birthday," Miller said.
Wood, who has 24 saves and was named to the National League All-Star team, would like to forget this injury ever happened.
"I'm beyond antsy," Wood said. "It's the [darndest] thing I've ever seen. I can't explain it, and nobody here can explain it. We've tried just about everything we could think of, and tried some things we probably shouldn't have. I think time is going to be the best thing for it."
During his simulated game at Miller Park, Wood wore a protective device on his finger to avoid aggravating the blister. He was able to throw all his pitches.
"Hopefully here in a few days -- I feel like I've been saying 'in a few days' for about three weeks," Wood said. "I'm tired of talking about it, tired of dealing with it, tired of looking at it, tired of touching it, tired of coming in here every day trying to get it better. I did my throwing today, and I'm going to try not to think about it."
By throwing to batters and in the bullpen, Wood is able to keep his arm in shape and avoid having to do a Minor League rehab assignment when he is given the green light.
Is he close?
"I don't know," Wood said. "It was wrapped up today, so I didn't feel anything today. We'll probably try to throw without it [Friday] and see how it feels."
Don't bother sending suggestions on how to heal his hand. Wood has had enough, from Vitamin E to salves to things that are better left unsaid. His hand has been tested to see if there is nerve damage, or if there's a problem with blood flow. Nothing.
"You go to one doctor, and he says keep it wet, you go to the next doctor and he says dry it out," Wood said. "Flip a coin."
The problem is that Wood can't get a grip on the ball because of the blister.
"It's the pressure on the ball that causes the pain," he said. "It's not burning, it's not a blister anymore. It's an open wound, it's an open sore on my finger. The skin is missing. We're trying to toughen up the skin that has come back and get it as hard as we can. It seems to have hardened up quite a bit. I think we're making more progress than we have in the past couple weeks."
The good news for the Cubs is that they haven't had many save opportunities while Wood has been sidelined. Wood notched his 24th save on July 11, and since then, the Cubs have had a mini-vacation because of the All-Star break, and Carlos Marmol has two saves and Samardzija one two-inning save.
"We haven't had that many," Wood said of the save opportunities, "but what it comes down to is the bullpen having to switch roles and not everybody staying in their roles, and it's tough for me to sit here and watch that happen. Guys are coming into roles they're not familiar with and wouldn't be in if this hadn't happened. Guys have been throwing great."
While Marmol is handling the duties well, the Cubs would like to get Wood back so everyone can resume their regular roles.
"It's sort of like the Cardinals getting [Chris] Carpenter back and not having to go out and trade for a pitcher," Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis said about Wood's pending return. "Having Woody on the [disabled list] is not a good thing, but when he does come back, it'll make us that much better. He can afford now to be on the DL a little bit to make sure he's 100 percent when he does come back."
Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster didn't see any reason for the team to make a deal.
"I love our club -- it's cool," Dempster said. "I love everybody in here. Who knows what will happen?"
Chicago entered play Thursday with a four-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers and leads the National League in batting average and ranks second in ERA. Something must be working.
"All year, we've battled through injuries, and we have the talent and we've gone out and done our job," Marquis said. "We've hit a couple patches here and there, but not for an extended period of time. The first three games of this series, we've shown what type of team we have. I think we're in a great position."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.