Wood adjusts in first live session
Piniella encouraged by hurler's first work vs. hitters since June
MESA, Ariz. -- It was only 25 pitches, but it was enough to show that Kerry Wood is on the right track.
Wood threw to hitters Saturday at Fitch Park, the first time the Cubs pitcher has faced batters since June 6. It was a positive sign after the right-hander spent the offseason rehabbing from a partial tear in his rotator cuff. He was limited to four starts in 2006 because of problems with his shoulder.
"If I were Kerry Wood, I'd be very pleased with the way I threw," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "He looked nice and comfortable out there. He threw the ball nice and easy. [For the] first time out on the mound, [it was] very encouraging."
Not only was Piniella impressed, but so were the hitters who faced him. Just ask infielder Casey McGehee, a non-roster invitee to camp.
"It wasn't fun," said McGehee, the first batter to see Wood. "He looks pretty good. When he's telling you what's coming and he can buckle you on a breaking ball, he's got a pretty good one going.
"I've never faced him before but the ball was coming out of his hand good, and he threw a couple sliders, and he buckled me even though he told me it was coming," McGehee said. "He located the ball pretty good."
The crowd at Fitch Park knew how big Saturday's session was. They applauded and there were a few "Yeah, Kerry" cheers when he walked off the mound. He was frustrated at a couple pitches and showed his competitive side. But what catcher Koyie Hill liked was seeing Wood make adjustments on the mound to correct himself.
"For pitchers, it's the same as for hitters, so it's timing," Hill said. "Once the pitcher figures out what his timing is mechanically and his rhythm, he's going to be just fine. He was able to make adjustments off that.
"I was pleased with [his ability to make adjustments] and I was pleased with his aggression and his mindset," Hill said. "His whole day was good."
Wood, penciled in for the Cubs bullpen in this comeback season, could provide a welcome 90-plus mph arm.
"He had some life, threw some real nice breaking pitches," Piniella said. "I'm sure he was probably a little nervous going out there first time out. I'm not talking about [first time] throwing batting practice but getting through the 25 pitches he threw. It was really encouraging."
Next step for Wood will be 35 pitches to hitters. He's a little behind the rest of the pitchers after being slowed this spring by a freak accident when he fell out of his hot tub and bruised his chest. The right-hander could see Cactus League action next weekend.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.