Welcome Home, Woody

By Chris Rewers on Friday, December 17, 2010

All sentiments aside, the signing of pitcher Kerry Wood on Friday to a one-year, $1.5 million contract was an astute move by Cubs general manager Jim Hendry.

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Kerry Wood was 77-61 with a 3.65 ERA in 10 injury-plagued seasons with the Cubs from 1998-2008.

Like last week's one-year deal that will bring first baseman Carlos Pena to the North Side, it is a low-risk, high-reward proposition for the Cubs.

Relatively speaking, the $1.5 million Wood, who said he turned down more lucrative offers from "three or four other teams," will earn in 2011 is a pittance. Tim McGinnis of Tales from Aisle 424 points out that Jeff Samardzija will collect $2 million during the upcoming campaign.

During his introductory news conference Friday, Wood expressed his love for Chicago and his desire to raise his family here.

"It's never been about the money," said Wood, who will have performance bonuses for games pitched and finished. "It's about being home and being here at Wrigley, which is home for me."

But as the Daily Herald's Barry Rozner suggests, perhaps a debt of gratitude to Hendry also played a role in Wood's decision. He collected $49 million in salary from the Cubs during his previous injury-plagued 12-year tenure with the team.

Wood's injury problems continued in 2010 during a miserable first four months of the campaign with the Cleveland Indians. He was just 1-4 with eight saves, three blown saves, and a 6.30 ERA in 23 appearances as the Cleveland closer. In the final year of a two-year, $20 million deal, he was twice placed on the disabled list - his 13th and 14th career trips to the DL during his career.

But Wood seemingly found his niche after a July 31 deadline trade to the New York Yankees in a setup role. He allowed just two earned runs and 14 hits while striking out 31 and walking 18 in 26 innings with the Yanks, providing manager Joe Girardi with a sturdy bridge between his starters and closer Mariano Rivera.

The right-handed Wood and the left-handed Sean Marshall as the primary setup men for Carlos Marmol instills a great deal more confidence in Cubs fans than the duo who began the 2010 campaign in those roles - Esmailin Caridad and John Grabow.

It also improves the chances that we'll see Andrew Cashner in a starting role next year.

Thanks to some adjustments in his delivery made by former Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland, Wood turned things around in New York. One outing after Wood's arrival to the Yankees, Eiland convinced him to stand taller on the mound and raise his arm slot to improve the downhill angle on his pitches.

Wood's addition, of course, makes perfect sense in theory. But in order for the move to work out, he will have to stay healthy.

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