MILWAUKEE -- The career path of Chicago pitcher Kerry Wood is as busted up as the Cubs season this year.
The team revealed Saturday night that the right-hander has a partial tear in the rotator cuff of his throwing shoulder and that he will miss at least four weeks. Wood's Cubs career, which started with such promise, might be over. And his future in the game may well be in jeopardy.
Wood underwent an arthrogram at Northwest Memorial Hospital Friday, and the exam revealed the tear. The team said Saturday the options are conservative treatment or possible arthroscopic surgery on Wood's shoulder. A final decision hasn't been made on treatment.
"My gut feeling is saying no surgery and strengthen it," Wood said. "I've still got to get more opinions."
Cubs trainer Mark O'Neal told the Chicago Tribune that if Wood opts to forgo surgery, he would rest the arm for the next four to six weeks and then begin a strengthening program in October.
The Cubs have a $13 million option on Wood for 2007 but will most certainly exercise their $3 million buyout. Depending on Wood's health, they could re-sign him to an incentive-laden contract.
Wood told the Tribune that he wants to return and has a strong relationship with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry.
"But again, business is business," Wood said. "And I'm sure we'll talk about it later."
After experiencing shoulder problems last season, Wood worked out of the bullpen before undergoing labrum surgery Aug. 31. After resisting the idea of converting to a reliever this season, he now acknowledges that his future might be in the bullpen.
"Once we get through the rehab process ... it's going to be a decision we make down the road," he told the Tribune.
Four starts into this season's comeback, Wood experienced discomfort in the shoulder and went on the disabled list June 9. He underwent an MRI on June 26 in Cincinnati and consulted with Timothy Kremchek, who performed the labrum surgery. The doctor diagnosed a muscular imbalance, but Wood did not feel like he was improving. The arthrogram, which is more detailed and provides more information, revealed the tear.
"I know I'm not crazy now," Wood said.
Wood had a huge year as a rookie in 1998, including a major league record-tying 20-strikeout game in his fifth major league start en route to the National League Rookie of the Year Award. But he was shut down at the end of the year with arm problems.
Wood missed the 1999 season after elbow ligament replacement surgery, had double-digit wins from the 2001 through 2003 seasons, 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 and was on the DL three times.
This year looks like much of the same.
"Obviously, I'm not pleased, but at least we found something out," Wood said. "I knew something wasn't right for a little while. It's not what I was looking for, but we got an answer."
The pitcher who was once compared to Roger Clemens for his power style and Texas roots faces an uphill battle to come close to fulfilling his immense promise. Injuries have left him over 270 wins behind the durable Rocket. Wood's not ready to walk away, however.
"If I want to keep playing baseball, I have to be positive and keep doing the work that it will take to get back," he said.
"Obviously, my goal is to pitch again as soon as possible. That's the bottom line. Whether it's the end of this year, next year or three years from now, my goal is to get back and be successful in the big leagues."