Kerry Wood nears return to mound

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Kerry Wood, who hasn’t pitched in a Cactus League game in over a week, might return to action by Thursday.

Wood was expected to pitch on the side Monday and then appear in two Cactus League games as his final preparations before Opening Day.

It was revealed Saturday that the veteran setup man suffered an unspecified back strain at some point this spring, but manager Dale Sveum said that isn’t the reason for Wood’s recent absence. Sveum always planned to get the 34-year-old Wood a break toward the tail end of spring.

“We were just easing him back toward the season,” Sveum said. “Nothing spectacular from the back is going on. This is backing him off and making him ready for the season. There is just no reason for any extra workload. He was feeling good and everything like that.”

Wood, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee during the offseason, has made four appearances this spring, with three of them scoreless. He last faced the Chicago White Sox on March 18, giving up two hits in an inning of work, but no runs.

His only rough outing came on March 15 when he gave up four runs on four hits in a third of an inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In other bullpen news, closer Carlos Marmol is scheduled to return to action in Monday's game at home against the San Diego Padres. He hasn't pitched since Tuesday when he suffered a cramp in his pitching hand.