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Friday, November 18, 2011
Theo Epstein wants Kerry Wood back

By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Theo Epstein wants Kerry Wood back with the Cubs, and given the reliever's desire to retire rather than play for someone else, the new president of baseball operations should get his wish.

Epstein recently met with Wood for the first time since Epstein took over the Cubs on Oct. 21.

"I'll leave the details of the meeting confidential," Epstein said. "But I have no trouble going on the record saying that Kerry Wood is a very important part of the Chicago Cubs. We want him back. He makes us a better team because of what he brings to the bullpen. He also makes us a better organization."

Wood, who signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal before last season to return to the Cubs, didn't pitch again after Sept. 18 after suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee. He said at the time that he wanted to return to the Cubs for a 13th season and if they didn't want him back he would retire.

Wood underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Sept. 30 and was expected to need six weeks to recover.

Epstein tried to sign Wood to a two-year deal last fall when Epstein was general manager of the Red Sox. The White Sox also offered Wood a two-year, $8.5 million contract, but Wood elected to take the Cubs deal.

"He makes us a better organization," Epstein said. "That's because of what he brings to the clubhouse as well as his leadership so I'd like to get him back in the fold and move forward with him."

Wood, 34, was 3-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 55 games last season. He had 21 holds as the primary setup man on the right side for closer Carlos Marmol.

Before Wood returned to the team last season, he had a conversation with chairman Tom Ricketts in which he was informed that he could be with the organization as long as he wanted to after he retired.

Wood was the Cubs' top draft pick in 1995. He stayed with the team until 2009 when he signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Cleveland Indians. He was traded to the New York Yankees on July 31, 2010. He pitched out of the Yankees' bullpen that postseason.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.