Wood can empathize with Strasburg

Yanks' Wood can empathize with Strasburg

CHICAGO -- Kerry Wood knows what Stephen Strasburg is going through.

On the day that the Nationals announced that Strasburg would likely require Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the Yankees reliever recalled his own experience with the surgery when he was a phenom coming up with the Cubs.

Wood missed the entire 1999 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The injury came after his remarkable rookie season in 1998, one that included his 20-strikeout one-hitter against the Astros and a National League Rookie of the Year Award. He returned 13 months after the surgery, in May 2000.

Wood said his youth -- he was 21 at the time -- helped him return quickly. So did accepting the injury and moving forward right away.

"If you look for reasons why or why this happened to me, it delays the process of recovery," Wood said. "There's nothing else you can do except look forward."

The weighty expectations on his shoulders didn't change his perspective.

"When the game's taken away from you, you don't care what the expectations are," Wood said. "It's what you've been doing since you were 5 years old, it's what you love doing. You want to get back to a level you can compete at."

The lead-up to Wood's injury does differ from Strasburg's case. Whereas the Nationals have done all they can to limit Strasburg's innings and pitch counts in his rookie season, Wood threw at least 100 pitches in 21 of his 26 starts with the Cubs in 1998.

Still, Wood is not an advocate of coddling young pitchers, saying limiting their pitch counts in the Minors can prevent them from being ready to throw the same number of pitches in a higher stress environment in the Majors.

Manager Joe Girardi said the natural reaction to an injury such as Strasburg's is for the organization to wonder what it did wrong.

"Sometimes it just happens," he said. "There are injuries in sports."

Wood made it clear that there are varying degrees of them, and as bad as Tommy John surgery can be, it doesn't even compare to the shoulder surgery he underwent later in his career.

"The shoulder is 10 times harder than the elbow," he said.