Wood looking good as Cubs' fifth starter
One adage of spring training is that teams never want to go into camp with five starting pitchers. They want to go in with seven, eight, nine, 10 starters.
That way, when the inevitable injuries happen or if somebody pitches himself out of contention, there are others to step in without much drop-off in quality.
With just two-and-a-half weeks left of Cactus League games, the Cubs starting rotation is starting to take shape, and it looks like things may go as planned, even with some injuries.
The biggest bit of good news for the Cubs has been left-hander Travis Wood. An all-star and de facto ace in 2013, Wood went into camp ostensibly battling for the fifth spot in the rotation with Jacob Tuner and Tsuyoshi Wada. There also was talk Wood was on the trading block.
Wood has gotten off to a 1-0 start with a 1.80 ERA. In 10 spring innings, he has given up 10 hits and 4 runs (2 earned), and most important he's walked just one while striking out eight.
His competition for the fifth spot has fallen by the wayside because of injuries. Turner, who started 8 games for the Cubs last year after coming in a trade with Miami, will open the season on the disabled list with a mild flexor strain and bone bruise on his right elbow. He felt discomfort after his lone spring start, March 5.
"It felt like it was something I should get checked out," Turner told cubs.com. "This wasn't something I was looking at it possibly being. It could be worse. I'll take the time off now and not make it worse. The way they explained it to me is that if I did keep pitching, it could get worse."
Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who made 13 big-league starts last year and looked intriguing enough to bring back, has been hampered with leg problems.
That could leave the lane wide open for Wood to nail down the fifth spot.
"As long as guys are getting stretched out, it could play (for a while)," manager Joe Maddon told reporters. "It really can. Because we have some wonderful candidates who are going to keep pitching, we have ways to get that done."
Safe at the top are Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who went into camp as the No. 4 starter, has done nothing to cause worry, as he's off to a 1-0 start with a 0.00 ERA. Hendricks has worked 7 innings, giving up 3 hits while walking no one and striking out four.
Lester was roughed up for 7 hits and 6 runs in 3⅓ innings Monday against the Padres.
One thing we're learning about Lester is that he's super competitive, no matter the time of year.
"I have a hard time stepping back and going, 'It's just spring training,'" he told reporters. "The competitiveness and wanting to succeed is always there, whether it's now or October."
Lester said at the beginning of spring training that nothing changes his approach.
"I'm secure in who I am, I'm secure in my routine," Lester said then. "So my contract (six-year, $155 million) doesn't justify me or represent me. I represent myself in how I go about my business. My competitiveness doesn't change because now I've got X amount of dollars in the bank. That doesn't drive me.
"Like I said before, I want to win. You'll hear that a lot. If I don't win, we don't win, you probably don't want to be around me too much."