Wood's Return Could Shake up Staff

The Cubs' decision to bring back right-handed reliever Kerry Wood will have far-reaching implications for the pitching staff, and not just the bullpen.

Wood is expected to be the chief right-handed setup man to closer Carlos Marmol, alongside lefty setup man Sean Marshall. The Cubs liked the way Wood threw the ball in the Yankees' bullpen over the last two months of the 2010 season.

Where it gets interesting is with right-hander Andrew Cashner, a hard thrower who made his major league debut in May.

The Cubs switched Cashner from a starter to a reliever in the minor leagues before bringing him to the big club this year. However, there are many in the organization who believe Cashner's long-term future is as a starter.

The biggest issue with the 24-year-old Cashner is developing a full repertoire of pitches, something he was well on his way to doing as a starter in the minor leagues. The Cubs raised some eyebrows about their development of Cashner by bringing him up and putting him in the bullpen.

Look for the Cubs to allow Cashner to compete for a starting job in spring training. It's something they did last spring with Marshall and right-hander Jeff Samardzija. Both lost out and opened the season in the bullpen.

"He needs to get better, his breaking ball needs to come along and command and the rest of it," said manager Mike Quade. "Whatever role he's in, it's going to be important for him to get better. I think he just likes to pitch, I really do."

For his part, Wood began his career with the Cubs in 1998, earning Rookie of the Year honors and striking out 20 Astros in May of that year.

NOTES, QUOTES

--INF Bryan LaHair has rejoined the Cubs on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. The Cubs signed the former Seattle farmhand last year to a minor league deal, and LaHair spent the 2010 season at Class AAA (Des Moines) Iowa, where he hit .308 with 25 homers. LaHair is a left-handed batter who provides insurance.

--2B Blake DeWitt is a candidate to lead off in 2011. A left-handed batter, DeWitt could platoon with INF Jeff Baker, who hit .350 (49-for-140) against left-handed pitching this year. Manager Mike Quade regularly led off Baker against lefties after taking over as manager in August.

--SS Starlin Castro got off to a good start in winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Over his first 11 games, Castro was 13-for-41 (.356) playing for Escogido.

--OF Tyler Colvin is likely to stay put in the outfield with the signing of Carlos Pena to play first base. Colvin, who played some first base in college, is penciled in as the starting right fielder. He took some groundballs at first near the end of the season.

"I don't know if that's in the cards (having Colvin play first), but I do know that being creative and keeping an open mind in all of these things is important," Quade said. "Who knows? Fooling around with him last year out there may come in handy and we'll see how it shakes out."

BY THE NUMBERS: 1,407 -- Strikeouts by Kerry Wood while with the Cubs from 1998 to 2008. That ranks him fourth in team history behind Fergie Jenkins, Charlie Root and Carlos Zambrano.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Having lived there and had the Chicago experience most of my life, I understand the angst. But I have to stay focused on getting the most out of (my) club every day, and that's a daily task in itself." -- Chicago-area native Mike Quade on understanding what it's like to manage the Cubs.

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