With all of the negative talk about Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson, shouldn't there be similar concern about lefty Travis Wood?
A year ago, Wood was headed to the All-Star Game and on the way to a 200-inning season in which he went 9-11 with a 3.11 ERA and a tidy WHIP of 1.15.
The what-a-difference-a-year-makes story isn't a good one for Wood. He was rocked Sunday for 7 runs over the first three innings of the Cubs' 10-7 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field.
The good news for Wood was that he was able to settle down and get through 6 innings, but his numbers aren't nearly as pretty as they were last year: The record is 7-8 while the ERA is 4.96 and the WHIP is a feverish 1.49.
"It's hard to say; every year is different," he said. "It's kind of what I've taken into spring. You're never going to be the same as you were last year. Nothing's ever going to go the same way as it did. In my opinion, it's just a new year with different challenges, and you've got to overcome them."
Wood has not had a victory since June 15, when he went 8 shutout innings at Philadelphia. Since then, only 1 of his 5 starts was a quality start.
"We're hoping that this one's behind us, the half is behind us," said manager Rick Renteria, whose team goes into the break with at 40-54. "He (Wood) knows that his fastball command is one of the things that he's been working on, and we're still, obviously, very hopeful that he's going to work through that and going to be fine in the second half.
"We're looking for a better second half."
Sunday's game was a microcosm of the season for the Cubs. They fell behind early, but true to form, they battled back and made a game of it.
The Braves scored three times in the second, with No. 8 hitter Gerald Laird driving in a pair with a double. In the third, Chris Johnson crushed a homer to center field, his third in two days, to bring home 3 of the 4 runs that inning.
The Cubs did not score until the sixth, when they put across 2, before adding 2 in the seventh and 3 in the eighth.
"We did fall behind a little bit," Renteria said. "We kept chipping away. I thought the guys kept battling. We put ourselves in the position, potentially, even edge closer. We just fell a little short."
Once again, the most excitement came from rookie second baseman Arismendy Alcantara, who hit his first major-league home run, a 2-run drive to right, in the sixth inning. He also doubled in the first. In his five games since being called up from the minor leagues, Alcantara is 9-for-23 (.391) with 3 doubles, a triple, the homer and 5 RBI.
Every day, reporters ask Renteria what the Cubs are going to do with Alcantara, keep him or send him back to Class AAA Iowa. And every day, Renteria defers to the organization.
"You know what?" Renteria asked. "Anytime all of you ask us about the young men that we have, I don't get tired of you guys asking that. I just can't tell you I'll give you the answer you guys want to hear."
Alcantara also is playing it cool, especially for a 22-year-old.
"If they want me to stay here, I will," he said. "It's not my decision."
But he's definitely making the Cubs think about that decision.