Wood might not be ready for Opening Day

MESA, Ariz. -- Kerry Wood's rehabilitation from shoulder surgery is progressing. He's doing long tosses and throwing off flat ground. But there is no timetable for when he'll be able to pitch again for the Chicago Cubs.

In fact, he might not be ready for Opening Day.

"I don't put schedules on rehab," Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Wednesday after Wood made about 75 throws off flat ground and not a mound. "That will be determined as we go. He's where he should be in a rehab from the surgery. No setbacks or anything. As long as we can keep progressing, that's what we are after."

Wood was on the disabled list three times last season, made 10 starts, ended up in the bullpen as an effective reliever and then finally shut down his season, having arthroscopic surgery Aug. 31. The surgery wasn't done earlier because the Cubs were still mathematically in the NL wild-card chase.

The 1998 rookie of the year, Wood missed the 1999 season after elbow ligament replacement surgery, had double-digit wins from 2001-03, went 8-9 in 2004 when he had a triceps injury and then had an injury-filled season a year ago when he went 3-4.

The Cubs won't rush the pitcher who struck out 20 batters in his fifth major-league start. Rothschild said the plan wasn't necessarily to have Wood ready for Opening Day.

"In my mind I figured we weren't going to start the season. I thought that all winter," Rothschild said. "Shoulders are a little different and you'd better be careful with it. Because setbacks can be long term and cost you long chunks of times. That's what we are trying to avoid."

Wood must gradually work his way onto the mound, build arm strength and then eventually face hitters, a step that may or may not come this spring. His rehab is centered on him being a starter again. Out of the bullpen a year ago, he was 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 11 appearances.

"He's doing what he should be doing. He's throwing with maximum effort that his arm will allow him to right now," Rothschild said.

Wood, who has a 70-54 career record, is scheduled to speak with reporters Thursday when pitchers and catchers have their first official workout.