MLB

Cubs say RHP Wood returning for 2012

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CHICAGO (AP)

Kerry Wood wanted to play at home and the Chicago Cubs' new management wanted to keep him.

The sides found a fitting place to say they had a deal.

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The team said Friday the popular relief pitcher would return in 2012, saving the announcement to tell publicly fans at the annual Cubs Convention.

Wood will get $3 million next year. The contract includes a $3 million club option for 2013.

The 34-year-old Wood came back to the Cubs for a second stint last season after cutting them a discount and agreeing to a $1.5 million, one-year deal. He was 3-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 55 relief appearances before shutting it down because of a tear in his left knee that required arthroscopic surgery.

It was no secret that Wood wanted to remain a Cub. He lives in Chicago year-round, and the team's new regime had made it clear the feelings were mutual.

General manager Jed Hoyer said this week that the Cubs had offered Wood a "substantial" raise, and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein reiterated at a fan event Wednesday afternoon that he hoped to keep the veteran.

"It should be a no-brainer," he said.

The right-hander is 86-73 with a 3.64 ERA and 63 saves in 13 seasons. He left the Cubs as a free agent in December 2008, signing with the Cleveland Indians for two years and $20.5 million. He was traded to the Yankees in July 2010, becoming Mariano Rivera's setup man, but he remained loyal to Chicago.

Wood came of age as an athlete in Chicago, and a meeting with then-general manager Jim Hendry at a charity event after Ron Santo's funeral last winter paved the way for his return. Less than a week later, a deal was in place.

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Wood pitched for the Cubs from 1998-08, winning NL Rookie of the Year honors when he was a hard-throwing starter. He shot to stardom when he struck out 20 Houston Astros in a brilliant one-hitter in just his fifth major league start, but injuries have plagued him.

He missed the entire 1999 season recovering from elbow ligament replacement surgery. In 2003, he helped the Cubs reach Game 7 of the NLCS, where he was the losing pitcher despite hitting a home run against the Florida Marlins.

Shoulder problems nearly ended his career, but he made a stirring comeback and a successful transition to the bullpen, emerging as the Cubs' closer in 2008 and converting 34 of 40 save opportunities.

With Wood's deal, exactly half of the 166 players who filed for free agency have finalized agreements.

Tagged: Cubs, Kerry Wood

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