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Wood not near ready to return
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 7/29/2008 12:02 AM

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MILWAUKEE - Cubs manager Lou Piniella gave a two-word answer Monday when asked if rookie Jeff Samardzija was in the mix to close games during Kerry Wood's absence, which looks like it will linger.

"Why not?" Piniella said.

Although Samardzija was not available to pitch Monday after recording a 2-inning save Sunday, Piniella said he has a three-man closer committee of Samardzija, Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry.

The news on Wood doesn't seem to be getting any better. He threw Monday afternoon but did so with a protective pad on his right index finger, which has a blister on it. Wood is eligible to come off the disabled list today, but that won't happen.

It probably won't happen for at least another several days. Wood may be able to throw a simulated game Wednesday, facing hitters with the pad on his finger. Such pads are illegal during game action.

"He threw with the protective pad on it for a while, and it felt OK," Piniella said. "Then he took it off and tried to throw without it and couldn't.

"When he's ready, he'll let us know."

Wood has not pitched since July 11.

Marmol and Howry have been inconsistent of late. Samardzija came up last Friday and suffered a blown save, but he pitched creditably in his major-league debut.

He struck out three over 2 innings Sunday. First impressions are big with Piniella, and Samardzija made a good one.

"We have to be a little careful, and we will be," Piniella said. "If you ask him, he'll tell you he's ready to pitch . . . Awfully tempting, though, isn't it?"

Samardzija said he's open to it all.

"Usually, I'm going to say I feel pretty good," he said. "I've never really found myself saying I don't feel that good. You get out in a big game and the excitement gets going, it's amazing how good your arm feels, no matter how much you've thrown."