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Wood determined to get back on mound

Wood determined to get back on mound

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MESA, Ariz. -- Kerry Wood may not be ready for Opening Day for the second straight season, but the Cubs right-hander hasn't given up coming back and pitching. He just has to get his shoulder strong.

"I've put too much time and work in to risk this thing," Wood said Wednesday. "I've just got to get it right."

Wood, who burst onto the scene in 1998 with a 20-strikeout game his rookie year, will likely be placed on the disabled list for the start of the 2007 season because of his shoulder. He spent the winter rehabbing from a partial tear in his right rotator cuff, and was able to pitch in five games this spring, totaling five innings.

On Sunday against the Angels, he threw 18 pitches in one inning, and felt some discomfort after his outing. An exam revealed fatigue, and he is literally day-to-day. On Wednesday, he was able to play catch, making about 35 throws, and that was it. What's next will depend on how he feels.

"I've been through more than this," Wood said. "It [stinks], no doubt about it. I'm not discouraged. Each morning, it's gotten better. We'll keep working on it. I threw a little bit today."

What's tough for Wood to deal with is that he felt so good in his early Cactus League outings. The plan was for the right-hander to make the conversion from starter to reliever.

"This whole spring has been kind of bittersweet," he said. "I came into camp and felt great. I had the rib thing [when he fell out of his hot tub]. That didn't concern me -- I knew I'd be fine, and I was throwing the ball great. The tricep thing came out of nowhere. It's tricky. It's a pain in the [rear]. I can't give up now."

Wood, 29, has struggled with injuries in his career. He underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery on his right elbow in 1999, and since 2004, has been sidelined primarily with shoulder issues.

There is no timetable for his return.

"I've set timelines in the past, and it doesn't benefit me at all," Wood said. "I know everybody wants to know, and the team wants to know when I'll be able to get back in action. This thing has to feel great for me. I was feeling great this spring, and it didn't last the whole time. I don't feel bad. I don't feel as bad as I did the other day [Sunday]. I just have to keep working at it."

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Wood has never thought about why he's had such bad luck with what appeared to be a superstar arm.

"I think if I was quitting, it'd be a fair question," he said. "We're competitors and we don't look at it that way. You can feel bad about it one day and wake up the next day and it's time to get back to work. I might have asked myself that question when I came out of the game the other day, but it's time to get back to work."

He's still not sure what happened on Sunday.

"I felt OK on the mound," he said. "Coming out, it felt weak. I knew I'd put too much time and energy in, and this thing was strong enough that it shouldn't be feeling weak after 18 pitches. It didn't feel as good as I wanted it to feel."

He didn't feel pain on one particular pitch. It just wasn't right, and he felt more sore than normal the day after. The team medical staff examined Wood's shoulder on Monday, but opted not to do an MRI. The strength is fine, he said, which is a good sign. He will not shut it down totally. He's come too far.

"This thing has been through a lot. I've been through a lot with this shoulder," Wood said. "It's something to be careful with and take my time with."

He's also weary of the media attention that's surrounded a pitcher who made four starts last season.

"I think at some point, everybody would be tired of asking the same questions," Wood said. "I'm standing here with eight guys around my locker and I haven't pitched in two seasons. It's tough to answer the same questions every day. I don't have answers. I do know I'm going to get back to work and get back out there."

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

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