But Wood is just one of a spring full of injury-related developments that with Opening Day just around the corner, could begin to effect teams' April rosters.
Wednesday was supposed to mark the first of back-to-back appearances for Wood, who is in the midst of a revelation-like spring. Instead, he was shut down due to back spasms.
The timing couldn't have been worse — just when Cubs manager Lou Piniella was on the verge of anointing him the closer — never mind that Wood had exactly no career saves until he logged one last week. That's how impressive Wood's spring had been.
But the spasms eased enough for Wood to throw an inning — allowing a run on two hits — on Thursday, and another potential issue for the man who already has made 11 trips to the disabled list quietly disappeared.
“The last time I checked, missing one day is a minor setback,'' Wood told reporters afterward.
And coming through those back-to-back appearances unscathed is all that appears to be standing between Wood and the closer role.
“He is making (a closer decision) easier,'' Piniella said.
Wood wants to close — his contract is filled with incentives for games finished: s $4 million guaranteed plus up to another $3 million more. But a career derailed by injuries has taught him to accept something less — at least publicly.
“I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible, stay on an even keel,'' Wood said. “There's more pressure in the ninth inning, but it's still the same mindset, whether you're pitching in the sixth or the ninth. (The role) really doesn't matter. I haven't made (closing) a goal. I'm trying to be ready for anything. Keep it simple. Whatever job I get, is the job I get.''
In truth, even if Wood gets the closer role as expected, he will be monitored very closely, and at least early in the season — and the often-brutally cold weather at Wrigley Field, could get a day or two off to prevent being used on three or four consecutive days. It's not as if they don't have another option in emerging dominant right-hander Carlos Marmol, who is younger and healthier — if not experienced in that role. This spring, Marmol has thrown exclusively in the ninth inning, hoping to build a proper mindset.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers made their Cactus League debut on Thursday amid a sea of injury question marks they brought with them on their exodus from Vero Beach. They have moved into the Papago Park facilities vacated by the Oakland A's — who are on their way to Japan — but logistics are the least of the Dodgers' worries.
For the time being, that has left Tony Abreu and rookies Brian DeWitt and Chin-Lung Hu as Joe Torre's primary options until Garciaparra's return (he'll be evaluated again in a week but is doubtful for Opening Day and likely to start the season on the disabled list).
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen didn't do much to quell the possibility, saying that he couldn't keep both Crede and Josh Fields on the Opening Day roster.
But Crede's health also is an issue, as he is recovering from back surgery and hasn't regained his timing at the plate. As Guillen succinctly summed it up: “His health is good, but his hitting is horse(bleep). But I don't worry about Joe. He'll come out of it.''
The Dodgers say they most likely will wait on Garciaparra, rather than jump to make a deal. But is that really a wise option, considering he has missed 81 games over the last two seasons — and 181 in the two before that?
Abreu also is injury-prone and has only 166 big-league at-bats at age 23, and is more of a middle-infielder type at 5-9, 200 pounds. DeWitt hasn't played above Class AA, finishing the season there last season. Hu is primarily a shortstop, but could be the best of the three possibilities.
But since the Dodgers still consider LaRoche their third baseman of the near-future, it appears unlikely they would add anything more than a one-year option, or part-time type.
Kent will be idled until at least this weekend. He is expected to be ready for Opening Day, but has only 10 at-bats this spring.
Yet as recently as a few days ago, they weren't looking to add a reliever in a deal. That's because Rodney is only a little behind schedule, and could come off the DL as soon as the second week of the season.
They are expected to begin the season with Todd Jones in the closer role, in addition to lefties Tim Byrdak and Bobby Seay, and four right-handers from among a group including Jason Grilli, Zach Miner, Yorman Bazardo, Denny Bautista and Preston Larrison.
HBT: Robinson Cano homered twice while David Phelps had the longest outing of his career as the Yankees topped the Blue Jays 7-2 this afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
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