Cubs LHP Wood ready to help team in bullpen role
CHICAGO (AP) The ball from Travis Wood's first career save was thrown into the stands at Wrigley Field, and the veteran left-hander insisted it was no big deal.
''I mean it's just a ball,'' a grinning Wood said Sunday. ''I can grab any dirty ball and write on it.''
Wood is bringing the same attitude to his move from the rotation to the bullpen for the Chicago Cubs. He made his first relief appearance since 2011 in a 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday and pitched a perfect ninth to close out Chicago's sixth straight win.
''Whatever I can do to help the team win,'' Wood said before the Cubs' 3-0 loss to the Pirates on Sunday. ''We're hitting on all cylinders right now, playing good D, swinging the bats well and pitching well right now, and so hopefully we can keep that together and you know, keep winning.''
Wood was an All-Star in 2013, but he struggled for much of last season. He won the fifth spot in the rotation during spring training and was 2-2 with a 5.59 ERA in seven starts when he was informed of the move to the bullpen in a meeting with manager Joe Maddon, pitching coach Chris Bosio and bullpen coach Lester Strode on Saturday.
There are signs that Wood might be more effective in a relief role. He is holding opponents to a .230 batting average on his first time through the lineup this year. That number increases to .237 on his second time through the order and then .333 on the third look.
''I think there's something there,'' Maddon said, ''and we also talked this does not preclude the potential for him to become a starter again at some point. For right now, we're looking at it this way and then we think he can be very helpful to us. You saw it yesterday. He was obviously a big part of that game.''
Maddon said how Wood is used will depend on what relievers are available on a given day. The manager then announced after the game that left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada will come off the disabled list to start Wednesday's game at San Diego after being sidelined for the start of the season by a mild left groin strain.
Wood made four consecutive relief appearances with Cincinnati in 2011. He allowed one hit while pitching five scoreless innings.
The athletic Wood also has been used as a pinch hitter and pinch runner, and the move to the bullpen will make it more difficult for Maddon to deploy him in that role. Wood has nine career homers and a .184 batting average, but is just 2 for 22 at the plate this year.
''Right now at-bats haven't been what they used to be,'' Wood cracked, ''so maybe we needed a little break from that as well. So hopefully we'll get that ironed out, too.''
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap