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updated: 1/13/2012 9:41 PM

Cubs convention kicks off with Wood signing

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  • Kerry Wood waves to fans during player introductions at the 27th Annual Cubs Convention in Chicago on Friday. Wood signed a one-year deal worth $3 million to return to the North Side next season.

      Kerry Wood waves to fans during player introductions at the 27th Annual Cubs Convention in Chicago on Friday. Wood signed a one-year deal worth $3 million to return to the North Side next season.
    Associated Press

  • Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza speaks to reporters during the 27th annual Chicago Cubs baseball convention in Chicago on Friday, Jan. 13, 2012.

      Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza speaks to reporters during the 27th annual Chicago Cubs baseball convention in Chicago on Friday, Jan. 13, 2012.

  • Chicago Cubs infielder Starlin Castro attends the 27th Annual Chicago Cubs Convention in Chicago on Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. Castro, whose attorneys last week denied any wrongdoing after a report that a woman had†accused him of sexual assault, said Friday that he has cooperated with police.

      Chicago Cubs infielder Starlin Castro attends the 27th Annual Chicago Cubs Convention in Chicago on Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. Castro, whose attorneys last week denied any wrongdoing after a report that a woman had†accused him of sexual assault, said Friday that he has cooperated with police.

 
 

The Cubs convention is always a three-ring circus.

There weren't tents big enough to hold everything Friday evening at the opening ceremonies of this year's version.

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But we do have three rings:

•Longtime Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood stole the show at the opening ceremonies as he was introduced as the team's "most recent acquisition." Yes, Wood is returning for at least another year as he and the Cubs agreed on a one-year contract worth $3 million (doubling his 2011 salary) with a club option worth $3 million for 2013.

•Shortstop Starling Castro, the subject of police questioning for a sexual-assault accusation, was introduced to huge cheers from fans in the big ballroom of the Chicago Hilton. Castro looked subdued. He is not expected to speak with the media this weekend. He will take part in autograph sessions, but may not speak during a scheduled panel discussion Saturday.

•Pitcher Matt Garza is still with the Cubs, and he showed up Friday. The subject of trade rumors, Garza said he just wants to pitch.

The coup de grace of Friday's festivities was the announcement of the Wood signing. Wood, among the most popular Cubs of all time, stole the show from new team president Theo Epstein, who himself was greeted with chants of "Theo, Theo, Theo."

Things looked a little touch and go as to whether Wood would come back. He went so far to say he had a physical exam scheduled with another team.

But in the end, he returned "home."

"Never a doubt," he said. "It was kind of last minute. I think both sides kind of knew we would. Two months of waiting took probably 15 minutes to get it done. That's kind of how it goes sometimes. Obviously, super-excited to be back and still playing here in Chicago. I thought I was going to be in three different places."

Epstein cautioned earlier in the day against making moves strictly for public-relations reasons, but he added he felt Wood still has a lot left.

"There was some scary moments along the way," Epstein said. "The communication opened up a lot both ways toward the end, and that helped get a deal done. It wasn't so much that there was a fundamental change at all, but better communication toward the end."

As far as Castro goes, he has not been charged with any crime despite reports of lengthy police interviews Thursday into Friday.

This was Castro's second trip to Chicago since the alleged incident took place, at the end of September. He was in town in mid-November, which his representatives and the Cubs described at the time as a get-to-know-you meeting.

Castro, in a statement, said he was cooperating fully with police and that he understands the expectations, on and off the field, that come with being a Cub.

The 21-year-old shortstop figures to be the centerpiece of the Cubs' offense again. He may not be the centerpiece of their marketing efforts, however. In one interesting twist, the Cubs have changed the cover of their pocket schedules from a photo of Castro to generic Wrigley Field shots.

The other subject of curiosity was Garza, the 28-year-old right-hander who was the Cubs' most effective pitcher last year, despite a 10-10 record. His 3.32 ERA was solid, and other teams have expressed interest. However, Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer understandably would want a lot in return for Garza.

"The common thing is that I'll be playing," Garza said. "I really don't pay attention to that. I've got way too many things going on. I work out 3-4 hours a day, and I've got three kids, and two of them go to school, so I'm busy, busy, busy.

"It's always flattering. The day you worry is the day they stop talking about you. It's always fun, but I'm more focused to getting down to Mesa come February."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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