- Associated Press - Friday, December 17, 2010

CHICAGO (AP) - Kerry Wood and the Chicago Cubs finalized a $1.5 million, one-year contract Friday that sends the right-handed reliever back to the team he started his major league career with in 1998.

The 33-year-old Wood 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 last July.

Wood’s career has been plagued by injuries. He missed the 1999 season after elbow-ligament replacement surgery and has made 14 trips to the disabled list. He will be a late-inning reliever to set up closer Carlos Marmol, and his presence will allow talented young right-hander Andrew Cashner to perhaps move into the rotation.

During a news conference at Wrigley Field on Friday, Wood said he had offers from three or four other teams to pitch next season but left money on the table because he wanted to return to the Cubs and raise his family in Chicago. Wood said he never really wanted to leave in the first place.

“It’s never been about the money,” said Wood, who will have performance bonuses for games pitched and finished. “It’s about being home and being here at Wrigley, which is home for me.”

Wood and general Jim Hendry attended Ron Santo’s funeral last Friday and that night they met and had a discussion at a fundraiser held by Cubs‘ pitcher Ryan Dempster.

Hendry said the deal wasn’t reached on sentiments alone but also because Wood can still help the Cubs out of the bullpen. His smaller contract allows the team flexibility if it needs to make roster additions.

In 12 seasons, Wood is 83-68 with a 3.65 ERA and 62 saves _ 34 of those with the Cubs when he was their closer in 2008.

With the Yankees, Wood became Mariano Rivera’s primary setup man and was 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in 24 appearances with New York.

Wood is one of the most popular players in Cubs‘ history.

In his fifth major league start in 1998, he struck out 20 Houston Astros in a brilliant one-hitter that made him an immediate star. He missed the entire 1999 season recovering from elbow ligament replacement surgery, but in 2003 helped the Cubs reach Game 7 of the NLCS, where he was the losing pitcher despite hitting a home run against the Florida Marlins.

After winning the closer’s role in 2008, he saved 34 of 40 games, his fastball blazing in the mid 90s mph again, reinventing his career as a reliever.

That career appeared to be nearly over in 2007 as he battled shoulder problems for a third straight season. But he made a stirring comeback in August that year after the pain in his shoulder went away and pitched well in relief.