Wood throws with protective pad on finger with open blister

MILWAUKEE -- Cubs closer Kerry Wood threw off the mound Thursday in his effort to return from a pesky blister that's turned into an open sore, a day after his manager said he wasn't close to returning.

"I'm beyond antsy," the All-Star pitcher said. "I mean, this is the damnedest thing I've ever seen as far as skin. I can't explain it. Nobody here can explain it and we've been to several doctors and it just hasn't gotten any better."

Wood threw about two dozen pitches off the Miller Park mound against hitters with a protective pad on his right index finger several hours before the NL Central-leading Cubs took on the Milwaukee Brewers. He was a little wild, but mixed in his entire assortment of pitches with Carlos Zambrano and a host of other teammates watching.

"It's nice to just keep the shoulder going and to be able to still throw," Wood said. "It was wrapped up today, so I didn't feel anything today. So we'll probably try to throw without it tomorrow and see how it feels."

Wood, who cannot pitch with the protective device in a game, was eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday. The right-hander hasn't recovered from the blister that's kept him out since July 11.

"It's not a blister anymore. It's an open wound, it's an open sore on my finger. The skin's missing," Wood said. "We're trying to toughen up that skin that has come back a little bit, try to toughen that up and get it as hard as we can. What we've been trying the last couple of days, it seems to have hardened up quite a bit.

"I think we're making more progress than we have the last couple of weeks. So, hopefully, it's sooner than later."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella said before Wednesday's game that Wood wouldn't throw as scheduled that day because he wasn't close to returning.

"Why risk it?" he said at the time.

But Wood said his arm feels great and that the nerve and blood flow tests on the finger came back normal.

"I feel like I've been saying, 'in a few days' for about three weeks," Wood said. "I'm obviously tired of talking about it, tired of being away, tired of looking at it, tired of touching it."

Wood, who is 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA, had saved 24 of 29 chances before being put on the DL for the 12th time in his 10-year career.

The Cubs haven't relied on one main closer in Wood's absence.

Rookie Jeff Samardzija saved his first game with two scoreless innings on Sunday, but gave up a run on Tuesday night in the ninth inning of the Cubs' 7-1 victory. Carlos Marmol saved his fifth game on Monday night, but gave up a run on Wednesday night. The other candidate, Bob Howry, has struggled in his last six appearances.

"What it comes down to is the bullpen having to switch roles and not everybody staying in their role," Wood said. "It's tough for me sitting there and watch that happen."