- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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Love of family brought Kerry Wood back to his Chicago roots on Friday. First and foremost, love of his children -- and secondly the love he has for his Cubs -- helped Wood and his wife Sarah decide to take a lot less money to return to the north side.
In the mind of Wood and his wife, they were determined to come back to the Cubs after Wood's conversation with general manager Jim Hendry on Dec. 10 during a reception after Ron Santo's funeral.
"We threw it out there to Jim that night," Wood said. "He was honest with me from Day 1. He said, ‘This isn't going to happen. We aren't going to be able to compete [economically].' I said, ‘I'm not really asking you at this point [for more money]. We'll see what we can come up with."'
Wood took $1.5 million from Hendry, at least $3 million under the current market value for a veteran set-up man on the free-agent market.
"It was great working with [Hendry], and talking to him," Wood said. "I'm glad it got done."
The 33-year-old Texas native plans to be a Cubs ambassador in some capacity after his playing days are over.
Part of Wood's insistence on returning to the Cubs centers around his youngest daughter Charlotte's health issues that are best dealt with at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital. Kerry and Sarah decided last year that they would give up their home in Scottsdale, Ariz., and raise their children in Chicago. The driving force was Charlotte's medical needs.
Although Wood's presence in the clubhouse with young pitchers like fellow Texan Andrew Cashner will be a welcome addition, that wasn't Wood's No. 1 priority.
"No offense to Cashner, but I wasn't signing to help him out," he said. "However, it's a great by-product if we can get him into the rotation and he can go out and do his thing. I think it's going to be great for the team. But again, they had a need to fill at the end of the bullpen. I feel I can fill that role."
Hendry has manipulated his bullpen money beautifully so far, spending only $3 million on Carlos Pena in the 2011 budget and $1.5 million on Wood. That still gives Hendry the flexibility to spend $3 million-$5 million more on a starting pitcher via free agency or a trade.
The Cubs looked at Brandon Webb's shoulder last week. Webb, a former Cy Young winner, was topping out at 84-85 mph in the Arizona Instructional League in late October.