Cubs' Woods Blows Lead

Monday, March 26th 2007, 7:22 am
By: News On 6

The Chicago Cubs aren't sure if Kerry Wood is fit to be on the opening-day roster, and he certainly didn't help himself in his latest outing.

The oft-injured Wood is trying to regain his form after switching from starting pitcher to reliever. But he failed to protect a seventh-inning lead Sunday, giving up three runs that allowed the Los Angeles Angels to beat the Chicago Cubs 3-2 in Mesa, Ariz.

The 1998 NL Rookie of the Year, trying to stay off the disabled list and open the season with Chicago, gave up a two-run homer to Kendry Morales after the Angels tied it at 1. In his one inning, Wood yielded three hits while striking out one.

``He wasn't as sharp today, obviously,'' Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. ``The fastball didn't have the life of the last time. We'll see how he feels (Monday).''

Ted Lilly pitched six scoreless innings and Cliff Floyd homered for Chicago.

Wood, who rehabbed this winter from a shoulder injury, strained his right triceps March 11 and didn't pitch again until Friday. For the spring, he has thrown five innings, giving up seven hits, seven runs and two homers.

The Cubs haven't decided whether Wood will start the season on the active roster or if he needs more time to build up arm strength.

Dmitri Young, however, definitely has a major league job again.

After a tumultuous 2006 marked by off-the-field problems, Young found out Sunday he'll be the starting first baseman for the Washington Nationals on opening day because his chief remaining competition, Travis Lee, asked to be released.

``I was at the bottom of the mountain, the bottom of Mount Everest, and I climbed my way up, one day at a time, knowing that I had to work,'' Young said in Kissimmee, Fla. ``I did everything it would take to earn it.''

Two months ago, Young was pondering retirement. A week ago, he was stuck in Washington's minor league camp, trying to prove his personal demons are in the past and he can still swing a mean bat.

So already, 2007 is looking much better than 2006 for the 33-year-old Young, a former All-Star who was as low as low can be not all that long ago.

In the span of one calendar year, he faced an assault charge, treatment for alcoholism and depression, a divorce and hospitalization for diabetes. He also was cut by the Detroit Tigers with less than a month left in the regular season.

Now, he'll fill in for Nick Johnson, the Nationals' incumbent first baseman who's expected to miss at least the first two months of the season while recovering from a broken leg.

``I've had my whirlwinds before,'' Young said with a hearty laugh. ``This is not a whirlwind. This is just, take it one step at a time _ getting back to playing professional baseball at the big league level.''

At Jupiter, Fla., St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds took a big step toward being ready for opening day by playing in his first spring training game.

Edmonds hit second in the batting order, drawing a walk and grounding out in a 6-5 loss to Baltimore. He was removed in the fourth inning.

An eight-time Gold Glove winner, Edmonds has spent the spring recovering from offseason shoulder and toe surgeries.

``It was an easy day,'' Edmonds said. ``Didn't have to run too much, didn't take too many bad swings.''

The Cardinals hope Edmonds will be ready for the April 1 opener at home against the New York Mets.

``We don't know what to expect,'' manager Tony La Russa said. ``You work out and you're under control. He may make one break today and his toe would be sore and that's the end of it. Who knows?''

At Port St. Lucie, Fla., the Mets finally settled on five starting pitchers for their suspect rotation, tabbing top prospect Mike Pelfrey for one spot. John Maine and Oliver Perez, as expected, will fill the other slots behind Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez.

``It's always good to hear, 'Hey, you made the team,''' said Pelfrey, unable to conceal his smile. ``I've still got a lot of work to do and I've got to continue to get better.''

Pelfrey, the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft out of Wichita State, allowed four runs and six hits in five innings of an 11-3 loss to Houston. But he pitched well throughout spring training, and that was enough to win a job.

``He's matured,'' Mets manager Willie Randolph said. ``You can see where he's learned a lot from last spring. Obviously, he has good stuff, but he's worked hard to execute, for the most part, what we wanted him to do this spring.''

Zack Greinke is back in Kansas City's rotation, 13 months after he left Royals camp to deal with social anxiety.

The right-hander will be the club's No. 3 starter and pitch in the season-opening series against Boston, manager Buddy Bell said after Greinke's five-inning stint in a 7-6 loss to Milwaukee at Surprise, Ariz.

``He doesn't need to do any more than he is doing now,'' Bell said. ``I just hope he stays this way and he's encouraged by all this.''

In other games:

Red Sox 12, Marlins 6

At Fort Myers, Fla., Josh Beckett did not allow an earned run in seven sharp innings for Boston. Pitching against his former team for the first time, he struck out seven and yielded three hits.

Tigers 9, Yankees 5

At Lakeland, Fla., Detroit's Gary Sheffield hit a three-run homer and a sacrifice fly against his former team. New York starter Jeff Karstens gave up six runs, six hits and two walks in two innings before leaving with a stiff elbow.

Blue Jays 3, Reds 2

At Dunedin, Fla., Tomo Ohka allowed one run over five innings, improving his chances of winning the fourth spot in Toronto's rotation.

Braves 6, Nationals 0

At Kissimmee, Fla., Chuck James gave Atlanta another strong outing, while Washington starter Matt Chico got roughed up for the first time this spring. James allowed two hits in six innings, lowering his spring ERA to 1.80. Chico pitched 3 2-3 innings and allowed six runs, five earned, and 10 hits.

Phillies 10, Twins 2

At Clearwater, Fla., Chase Utley homered twice and drove in three runs, and Cole Hamels pitched 6 2-3 strong innings for Philadelphia.

Devil Rays 12, Pirates 4

At Bradenton, Fla., Jae Seo became only the fourth pitcher in the Devil Rays' 10-season history to go seven innings in an exhibition game, limiting Pittsburgh to two runs and five hits. The right-hander has a 1.69 ERA this spring against major league hitters.

Dodgers 4, Indians 3

At Vero Beach, Fla., Jason Schmidt allowed one run in five innings for Los Angeles to lower his ERA to 5.06. Indians starter Jake Westbrook gave up two runs and five hits in six innings. Brett Tomko was picked to be the Dodgers' fifth starter.

Rangers 10, White Sox 2

At Tucson, Ariz., Mark Buehrle gave up 12 hits and four runs over six innings for Chicago. White Sox shortstop Juan Uribe left with a right calf injury that is not considered serious.

Diamondbacks 3, Rockies 2

At Tucson, Ariz., Eric Byrnes homered twice off Brian Lawrence, who pitched six solid innings for Colorado.

Mariners 10, Athletics 6, 10 innings

At Phoenix, Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre was hit in the back of the head with a pitch but appeared to be OK.

Rich Harden's final outing in Arizona came in an intrasquad game on one of the back fields at Papago Park. Oakland's No. 1 starter walked five in the first four innings, but retired nine of his final 10 batters. He threw 95 pitches, allowing two hits in six shutout innings with four strikeouts.

Padres 10, Giants 7

At Peoria, Ariz., Bruce Bochy's first game against his former team didn't go his way, though San Francisco's new manager received a standing ovation from Padres fans before the first pitch.

Adrian Gonzalez hit his fourth homer for San Diego and drove in three runs. Khalil Greene connected for his fifth home run and barely missed another as he raised his average to .426. Greene has a team-high 16 RBIs.