A stiff shoulder forced Cubs RHP Kerry Wood out after the third inning of a game against the Cincinnati Reds on the road last night. The Reds won, 9-3.

Wood gave up three solo homers and four hits overall, throwing 66 pitches before he was replaced.

"It's a concern, but you don't want to jump to conclusions yet," Manager Dusty Baker said. "We took him out more as a precaution than anything. His velocity was down.

"He warmed up great and didn't feel anything. That one inning he started to feel something, whatever it was."

He has been bothered by a sore shoulder since spring training, when bursitis limited him to three starts. He went on the disabled list May 3 with a shoulder strain, and wasn't activated until June 29.

He had trouble keeping his pitches down in his fifth start since coming off the disabled list. He gave up a solo homer in the first inning to Felipe Lopez, one in the second to Adam Dunn and another in the third to Ken Griffey Jr.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild and a trainer talked to Wood after the home run by Griffey. Wood stayed in the game and retired the next two batters, but didn't return for the fourth inning.

The Cubs lost for only the second time in 10 games, a surge that moved them back into contention for the NL wild card. Wood's latest shoulder woes could undercut the renewed optimism.

Wood was scheduled for an exam with Tim Kremchek today. The Cubs then will decide whether to get medical tests on Wood, who didn't stay around to talk to reporters.

* WALKER IS BACK: Cardinals OF Larry Walker responded to treatment for a stiff neck and was inserted into the lineup against Milwaukee.

"He had an early practice and he felt he could go," Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa said.

Walker has played through ailments this year that have made him consider retiring after the season. He was hitting .280 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI.

* GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION: Atlanta rookie Jeff Francoeur went 3 for 3 with a home run in a 4-1 victory over the host Giants.

He had homered in his major league debut less than two weeks ago. After Julio Franco's two-out double in the second inning yesterday, Francoeur homered on a poor change-up from Noah Lowry.

"I'm not trying to think too much," Francoeur said. "I'm just trying to have as much fun as I can."

-- From News Services