It’s quickly becoming the “best shape of my life” comment of Chicago Cubs camp:
Dudes look better than they did at this point last year. We heard it about Matt Garza, Scott Baker says he’s ahead of where he was at this point last year (before his Tommy John surgery), and now it’s Travis Wood whose stuff is looking better than it did at this point last year.
“The ball is coming out of Wood’s hand so much better than last Spring,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, per ESPNChicago. “The way he’s spinning the ball.”
Of course, given the way Wood performed last Spring, Sveum’s comment may be more of a reassurance than a compliment. It’s easy to forget that Wood entered Spring Training in 2012 as an easy favorite to win a spot in the rotation, but he struggled so mightily that he was one of the first rotation competitors to get the boot. Eventually he got himself together, working his way back up to the big leagues and into the Cubs’ rotation. His overall numbers wound up encouraging, if not spectacular – 4.27 ERA, 1.199 WHIP, 2.20 K/BB, 54% quality start rate (52% is league average), 4.84 FIP (that’s the ugly one).
If he comes out of the gate throwing the ball much better this time around, he’ll likely land a spot in the rotation from the get-go as the only lefty.
If he doesn’t, though, Sveum says Wood is definitely a bullpen candidate.
“We have enough depth, so right now we’ll take the best seven guys in the bullpen, whoever it is,” Sveum said. “His development as a starter is pretty much over.”
In other words, if Wood looks like a quality bullpen option, the Cubs aren’t going to fret about wrecking his future starting abilities by switching him into the bullpen. Of course, the fact that Wood is out of options doesn’t hurt his chances of making the team, regardless of his role. And with James Russell the only lefty currently locked into the bullpen, Wood heading that way as a swing man wasn’t out of the question anyway.
It seems likely that we’ll see a rotation of Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, and Travis Wood coming out of Spring Training, with Scott Baker on the DL (or piggy-backing), and Carlos Villanueva in the bullpen. But it’s interesting to know that the Cubs are formally considering Wood as a bullpen option. And it’s good to know that, at least for now, he’s throwing the ball well.