Thriving in 'pen, Wood knows his role

Thriving in 'pen, Wood knows his role

CHICAGO -- Two years ago, Travis Wood was the Cubs' lone All-Star representative. Now, the left-hander is in the bullpen, but he's hoping to be an All-Star again someday.

In 2013, Wood was 6-6 with a 2.79 ERA and 17 quality starts at the break, and he finished with a 3.11 ERA. He totaled 200 innings for the first time in his career that season. But the lefty couldn't match those numbers last year, going 8-13 with a 5.03 ERA in 31 starts.

Wood began this season in the rotation and went 2-2 with a 5.59 ERA in seven outings before being reassigned to the Cubs' bullpen. In 17 games in relief, including three hitless innings on Wednesday against the Cardinals, he has thrived, posting a 2.59 ERA and holding opponents to a .188 batting average. Wood is also 1-for-1 in save opportunities.

"As long as I'm down there, I have to do the best I can and come into the game and get outs," Wood said. "That's what we're all trying to do down there. Hopefully, we can pick up the slack and get us the win."

When the Cubs did need a spot starter in late June, Wood could have been an option, but manager Joe Maddon likes the lefty where he's at.

"It's really nice to see his name on that list [of available relievers]," Maddon said. "When he comes out for that one time through the batting order, he can just let it go. He knows he doesn't have to save it for the fifth or sixth innings. He's been really valuable."

Wood, 28, agrees there's a different approach as a reliever.

"You're going out there to get hitters, but the mentality is different," Wood said. "If you're going out to face one hitter, you don't hold anything back. You give 'em everything you've got to get that out. It's like if you're going to face the lineup one time, you don't have to try to hide anything."

Wood didn't pout after being moved to the 'pen.

Wood gets win in relief

"[Pitching for the Cubs] is where I want to be," Wood said. "If it has to be in the bullpen, maybe we can iron some things out and possibly get back to the rotation at some point, but right now I'm in the bullpen and that's my role and I'm going to give it everything."

None of the Cubs' relievers seem to have an ego. The closer is whoever Maddon feels is best in that late-inning matchup. When the team won three of four games in Washington in June, three relievers picked up a save.

"It's all hands on deck at any time," Wood said. "We all pull for each other."

It's a different view from the bullpen, especially at Wrigley Field, where the fans sit next to the pitchers. Wood said folks will "talk to you or scream at you" depending on their mood. Wood went through plenty of mood swings himself this offseason, sitting in his deer stand and thinking about where he fit in the Cubs' plans. In his heart, he wants to start again.

"After this season or during the season, that will be the goal to get the body ready to get back to starting," Wood said. "I felt I was making strides this year. I'll get back to that when the time comes."

And maybe be an All-Star again.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.