Wood preparing to start, but likely will relieve

Lefty on mound to begin Cubs' Cactus campaign

Wood preparing to start, but likely will relieve

PHOENIX -- Travis Wood prepared this offseason as if he would be starting and opened the Cubs' Cactus League season Thursday by throwing two innings against the Brewers in a 2-1 loss. But the lefty most likely will end up in the bullpen once the regular season begins.

"In my mind, yes, [I'm a starter]," Wood said. "Wherever they put me, I'll take the ball and give it everything I've got. ... We'll just see what happens in the end."

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Cubs manager Joe Maddon knows how valuable Wood is.

"I'm certain there's a part of him that wants to be a starter, even if he's not going to concede it or say it loudly," Maddon said Thursday. "But he also understands what a great job he did last year and the longevity in the game and the ability to take care of his family for many years just by doing what he's doing right now, and why not do it here?

"He knows he's well liked, he knows he's respected," Maddon said. "Just moving forward, I think a lot of it has to do with he likes being here and he knows we respect him and we respect his abilities."

Wood was in the Cubs' rotation at the beginning of last season, then moved to the bullpen. As a starter, the lefty was 2-2 with a 5.06 ERA in nine games; as a reliever, he posted a 2.95 ERA over 45 appearances. He never complained about the switch.

"It's not really a different spring," Wood said. "As far as my mindset, it's the same, and as far as what they've told me, I'm going about it the same way. We'll just see what happens in the end."

Wood is part of the Cubs' versatile relief corps that also could include Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill and Adam Warren.

"It's an unusual group in the most positive way, with the variety of multiple-inning guys who are also capable of closing games if you want them to and can also start games if you want them to," Maddon said. "It's a nice variation on what you normally have."

The only downside to his relief role is that Wood doesn't get many at-bats. He does like to hit and is spending time in the batting cages this spring.

"I'm still swinging it, still taking hacks," he said.

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.