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Back spasms don't keep Wood out long

Wood returns following back spasms

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs closer candidate Kerry Wood threw one uneventful inning on Thursday, and proved that back spasms aren't the end of the world.

Wood was scratched from Wednesday's game because he woke up with spasms in his lower back. The right-hander, who appears to have the edge in the competition between himself, Bob Howry and Carlos Marmol, responded well to treatment and was able to pitch the fourth inning on Thursday against the Rockies.

"I just went out there and didn't even think about it," Wood said. "I threw a couple sliders, and got out of there."

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He gave up a leadoff single to Scott Podsednik, who then stole second, and got Yorvit Torrealba to ground out. Jeff Baker was called out on strikes, but Ryan Spilborghs lined a double down the left-field line, scoring Podsednik. Wood then got Marcus Giles looking at strike three. The Cubs rallied for an 8-6 win over the Rockies.

What's most impressive is that in eight innings this spring over eight games, Wood has not walked a batter.

"Honestly, I haven't thought about it," Wood said. "You can't afford to walk [a batter] any time, especially late in the game, if that's how I'm going to be used. You have to concentrate on getting ahead of guys and putting them away, so that's what I'm focusing on."

"That's the sign of a healthy pitcher, a guy who's feeling good, and throwing the ball good, and has confidence," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "He's going right after the hitters."

Is that the sign of a good closer?

"It all makes sense to me," Piniella said. "We've been very pleased with the way he's been throwing the ball this spring."

The next step depends on how Wood feels on Friday. He could throw in a Minor League game, possibly joining Carlos Zambrano who was slated to throw 85-90 pitches against the Athletics' Triple-A team, or he could throw one inning at Fitch Park against the Cubs' Minor Leaguers. If he can't go on Friday, then Wood would probably pitch Sunday and Monday for the requisite consecutive outings which the Cubs want to see before officially naming him as the closer. It's day to day.

"We want to see back-to-back days from everybody," Piniella said, "and then we can go to decision time."

Wood was amused at all the attention his latest injury received.

"We're all aware of it," Wood said. "I didn't know I was the first guy in history to have back spasms. First time for everything, I guess."

So this is a minor setback?

"The last time I checked, [missing] one day is a minor setback," Wood said.

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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