Wood's future, again splintering, could be cut down for good

History repeated itself Monday when the Cubs announced Kerry Wood was out with a shoulder problem and headed to the disabled list for the 11th time in his major-league career.

Whenever news this big happens, the cone of silence immediately drops at Cubs camp. So whether Wood is out for a month or so with scar-tissue problems or is done for the season with a severely torn rotator cuff is anyone's guess.

When it comes to Wood, Mark Prior and the Cubs, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It was three years ago this week the Cubs announced Prior was out with elbow soreness—after they had spent the entire spring referring to Prior's Achilles' tendon as the main source of his problems. No need to remind anyone how that episode wound up.

Wood was evaluated by a team physician Monday after feeling discomfort in his shoulder following Sunday's one-inning outing against the Angels, when his velocity hovered in the upper 80s in his second outing in three days.

"He obviously didn't have the same strength or throw the ball as well, and he had some discomfort after the game," general manager Jim Hendry said. "[Monday] he had more stiffness than normal, more than he's had earlier in camp, which had gone smoothly except for his triceps [injury]."

The Cubs provided no update on Wood late Monday and might not provide answers for days. No MRI was performed on the shoulder, for reasons unknown.

After consulting with several physicians and Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez last summer, Wood opted not to have rotator-cuff surgery and spent seven months rehabbing his arm. It worked for Martinez in Boston. Los Angeles Angels pitcher Bartolo Colon also spent the last seven months rehabbing a torn rotator, and he is expected back in the rotation by late April.

Wood, though, is a different animal. Whatever bad can happen usually does.

He had previous DL stints for elbow soreness, elbow surgery, a strained oblique muscle, shoulder tendinitis, a strained biceps, a sprained supraspinatus muscle, shoulder inflammation, shoulder surgery and last summer's partly torn rotator cuff. That's not even including the arthroscopic knee surgery in the spring of '06 or the bout with bronchitis in the spring of '99.

It all started again in February when he fell behind the other relievers because of an accidental spill in his hot tub. He then suffered the triceps injury midway through the Cactus League schedule, putting him further behind. The Cubs had been hinting Wood would likely begin the season on the disabled list to build arm strength, but as recently as Friday, Wood insisted he was ready to go.

"We're not worried about Opening Day right now," Hendry said. "Let's be cognizant of getting him right."

Wood was not made available for comment, which is just as well because his comment probably would not be printable. His petulance is becoming a recurring theme.

"Yesterday he was upset," manager Lou Piniella said. "Today he was more realistic about this. He's hoping for the best and is going to work hard."

The time line of the injury remained sketchy, which adds to the mystery surrounding Wood's health status. The Cubs said Monday they sent Wood to be evaluated after he showed up with shoulder stiffness, though a published report indicated the decision had been made after Wood's latest outing.

"I knew after the ballgame [Sunday] that he wasn't at his best," Piniella said. "We didn't know the extent. … But I talked to him [Monday] morning, and obviously his strength wasn't the same."

The Cubs can get by with Michael Wuertz as the secondary right-handed setup man after Bob Howry, with Angel Guzman as the long man. But the scenario of Wood and Howry throwing bullets in the late innings was one the Cubs fully expected to see, and though they might not have been depending on him on Opening Day, they certainly didn't re-sign him to be their designated rehabber.

"Let's just hope that it's not serious and that he can resume preparing himself," Piniella said. "Obviously, we'll give him time."

The Cubs have been giving Wood time to heal for the last four seasons, repeatedly saying: We'll see how he is tomorrow and go from there.

One of these days, Wood is going to run out of tomorrows.

Perhaps he already has.