Mailbag: Wood growing strong again

Mailbag: Wood growing strong again

Kerry Wood's rehab, Neifi Perez's status as a so-called savior, Alfonso Soriano, Angel Guzman, and song lyrics are included in this week's mailbag.

Remember to send questions to cubs06hit@yahoo.com, and include your name and hometown. Here's a little trivia. When Matt Murton, Juan Pierre and Jacque Jones take the field on April 3 at Cincinnati, it will mark the first time since 1981 that the Cubs have had three new outfielders on Opening Day. Can you name the '81 trio? The answer is at the end of the mailbag.

Is there any up-to-date information on how Kerry Wood is progressing? I heard the Cubs are planning on starting him off in the bullpen and then make him a starter as he builds up arm strengh. Is this true? Furthermore, I know it's impossible to say for sure, but does it seem like he may be able to pitch in some form on Opening Day 2006?
-- Paul T., Chicago, Ill.

Wood is continuing his rehab in Arizona and all the news has been positive. The Cubs are taking a conservative approach to his program because they want to avoid any setbacks. Hopefully, he'll be throwing off the mound for the first time when pitchers and catchers report this week in Mesa -- and if not, it's only because pitching coach Larry Rothschild is being careful. As for the bullpen vs. rotation issue, the goal is to get Wood back in the rotation. Manager Dusty Baker did say the Cubs might use the right-hander in the 'pen to build up arm strength if that seems like a good option. If you look at the Cubs' schedule, they could actually go with a three-man rotation for the first week and a half of the season because of off days. Wood may be 100 percent healthy on Opening Day, yet be placed on the disabled list simply because there's no need to rush his return.

And, belated congratulations to Wood and his wife Sarah, who welcomed their first son, Justin Dean, on Jan. 21.

How did Perez "save" the Cubs in 2005 (see Feb. 6 mailbag)? For starters, the team finished in fourth place, so I'd say they were more dead in the water than saved. More specificially, Neifi stepped in when Nomar Garciaparra got hurt but he hurt the team with his play more than anything else. The Cubs went into this offseason targeting good top of the order players because they were among the worst in baseball at the top of the order. Perez had the bulk of his at-bats at the top of the order. On offense, he was near the worst shortstop in all of baseball. Defensively, he is solid, but so was Jeromy Burnitz in right field. If anything, Neifi was lucky to get so many ABs -- he was in the right place at the right time.
-- Brent E., Bloomington, Ind.

OK, Perez didn't hit .350 with 30 homers and last year wasn't a fabulous season. Yes, he ranked third in the National League by grounding into 22 double plays. He also hit .280 in the No. 2 spot in the order, and was second in the NL in fielding percentage. Just imagine where they would have been without a guy who gave them competence at shortstop after Garciaparra went down. In other words, Perez wasn't the worst of the Cubs' problems.

I've heard some rumors that the Nationals are interested in trading Soriano, and I've also heard that the Cubs are interested. Have you heard any of these rumors and what would it take to get Soriano?
-- Matthew E., Ida Grove, Iowa

Here's what I know: The Cubs did have interest in acquiring Soriano at the trade deadline in July 2005 but did not talk to the Rangers about him after that -- nor have they talked to the Nationals since Soriano was dealt there. Soriano's salary is $10 million this year and the Cubs don't want to take that on. They also don't want him to play second (a view the Cubs share with the Nationals) because he's a defensive liability. Yes, Soriano is a good offensive player, but right now there's no spot for him in the Cubs' outfield.

When I look at the depth chart, it lists Glendon Rusch and Jerome Williams as the Nos. 4 and 5 starters. I hear a lot about the pitchers in the farm system and I'd be more comfortable if Rich Hill or Guzman were starting. Are the Cubs giving Hill and Guzman a chance to compete for those spots or just handing them to Rusch and Williams?
-- Evans A., St. Louis, Mo.

Because Guzman missed most of last season with a strained right forearm, he's a little behind and would probably benefit from starting in the Minor Leagues. The good thing about having Rusch and Williams is that Hill, who turns 26 on March 11, and Guzman, 24, won't be rushed. They'll have time to develop, to gain experience. Hill impressed a lot of the Cubs coaches last year with both his curve and his maturity. He's very close.

What will the total seating capacity at Wrigley Field be after the completion of the bleacher expansion project? Everyone seems to have a different answer from the low 40,000s to the low 41,000s.
-- Matt S., Urbandale, Iowa

The Cubs will announce the official figure when the bleachers are completed and they have a better idea of the capacity in the Batter's Eye Suite in center field. Attendance is expected to be slightly over 41,000.

Was that Pierre in a Super Bowl commercial?
-- Brad G., Chicago, Ill.

Yes it was. He was included in a Mobile ESPN ad in the second quarter. Pierre is seen sprinting across a crosswalk. However, when the commercial was originally filmed, he was a member of the Florida Marlins and wearing a Marlins uniform. The commercial's production team was able to digitally impose a Cubs uniform on Pierre.

Being a big Harry Caray fan, I have celebrated what I call the "12 Days of Harry" for the past three, four years. He died on Feb. 18, and was born March 1. This is a 12-day span (except during leap year). As Harry would appreciate an ice cold Budweiser, I drink one for him each of those days. It is the only time of year I drink Bud, and convienently it comes in packs of 12. This would be a good time of year to toast and remember the greatest commentator of all time.
-- Troy S., Roann, Ind.

Cheers.

Have a question about the Cubs?
Carrie MuskatE-mail your query to MLB.com Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
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Question:

Where can I find the lyrics to "Go Cubs Go" by Steve Goodman? I am down here in Cardinals country and want to get a copy so I can post it on my dorm room door. Thanks.
-- Dan B., Edwardsville, Ill.

OK, everybody sing:
Baseball season's on the way
Well you better get ready for a brand new day The Cubs are gonna win today

CHORUS
They're singing, Go Cubs go, go Cubs go The Cubs are gonna win today
Go Cubs go, go Cubs go
Hey Chicago what do you say?
The Cubs are gonna win today

They got the power, they got the speed
To be the best in the National League
Well, this is the year and the Cubs are real
So come on down to Wrigley Field

CHORUS
We're singing now Go Cubs go, go Cubs go
Hey Chicago what do you say?
The Cubs are gonna win today
Go Cubs go, go Cubs go
Hey Chicago what do you say?
The Cubs are gonna win today

Baseball time is here again
You can catch it all on WGN
So step your feet and clap your hands
The Chicago Cubs got the greatest fans

CHORUS
Hear them singing now Go Cubs go, go Cubs go
Hey Chicago what do you say?
The Cubs are gonna win today
Go Cubs go, go Cubs go
Hey Chicago what do you say?
The Cubs are gonna win today.

Trivia answer: The Cubs' 1981 Opening Day outfield was left fielder Steve Henderson, center fielder Scot Thompson, and right fielder Leon Durham.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.