Wood close to being Cubs closer

Wood close to being Cubs closer

MESA, Ariz. -- Kerry Wood needs to pass one more test before the Cubs officially name their closer.

Wood struck out two of the three batters he faced Saturday in the Cubs' 8-8 tie against the White Sox, and he will throw one inning on Sunday against the Padres for his first back-to-back work this spring. That's the deciding factor.

"This will be a real nice test for him, because he'll pitch back-to-back days and three out of four days, and that's as good a test as you can give anybody," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Hopefully he'll come out of it fine, and we're in business."

Which means the Cubs could officially name Wood the closer on Monday.

Wood threw one inning on Thursday after missing a scheduled outing because of back spasms. He is slated to go Sunday to fulfill the requisite consecutive days that Piniella wants to see. This spring, it's been Wood, Bob Howry and Carlos Marmol competing for the job, but Piniella has hinted the setup pitchers need to be more durable than the closer. Wood has not walked a batter in nine innings over nine games.

Against the White Sox, he threw 12 pitches, eight for strikes, and as Wood walked off the field, he received a loud ovation from the Cubs fans in the sellout crowd of 12,859 at HoHoKam Park.

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