All-Star dilemma for Cubs: Wood, Castro running opposite ways

All-Star dilemma for Cubs: Wood, Castro running opposite ways
July 4, 2013, 5:45 pm
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OAKLAND, Calif. – Travis Wood doesn’t have the name recognition or the loud personality, but he’s made his case for the All-Star Game. Then again, why would his luck change now?

The Cubs have to send a representative to the showcase event in New York, and it’s not going to be Starlin Castro, who’s been there twice before but has been dealing with the deepest slump of his young career and more questions about his long-term future.  

Wood submitted six shutout innings in his final start before the All-Star rosters will be unveiled on Saturday. But a 1-0 loss to the A’s on the Fourth of July at Oakland Coliseum pretty much summed up his first half, as well as the way this Cubs season has gone. 

There was Castro running from second base on Yoenis Cespedes and getting thrown out at home plate in the fourth inning after Alfonso Soriano knocked what looked like an RBI single into left field.

[MORE: Cubs hope Soriano getting hot at the right time]

“I thought he was (going to score),” manager Dale Sveum said afterward. “It seemed like a no-brainer right off the bat. I don’t know what happened there.”

Sveum said he thought Castro was running hard all the way: “As far as I know. I mean, I was kind of watching the ball. I was shocked that anybody could get thrown out on that.” 

Before the game, Sveum talked about the “unfortunate strange occurrences” that seem to happen on the days Wood pitches. That could be the tagline for a 36-47 team with no margin for error.

“The guy made a great throw,” Castro said of Cespedes. “I thought I’d score easy and I never stopped, you know what I mean? I never said to myself, ‘OK, I’m out, because I stopped.’ I ran hard right away from second base. I was surprised he got me out.

“I (actually) said: ‘Wow!’ Because (Soriano) didn’t even hit the ball too hard. I feel really bad.”   

The Cubs again gave Wood no run support, generating two hits all afternoon. The A’s (50-36) only managed an unearned run off a passed ball in the seventh inning.

Matt Guerrier – who was designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Dodgers and came over in the Carlos Marmol trade – made his Cubs debut and got Eric Sogard to swing and miss. The ball went through the legs of Welington Castillo, who had never caught Guerrier before.

“I’m not going to make that excuse,” Castillo said. “He made a really good pitch and I just didn’t really read it good out of the hand.”

Wood never makes excuses and again took this no-decision in stride. He’s now 5-6 with a 2.69 ERA. That makes 16 quality starts in 17 outings.

“I got to figure out how to win the ballgames,” Wood said. “I’ve been able to keep ‘em off balance, (but) I still got to help our team pull through and win the games.”  

Wood is not as physically as imposing as Jeff Samardzija, and he doesn’t have the same hard stuff that can blow away hitters. Maybe Samardzija leaves a different impression. But Wood has quietly put together the more consistent half-season.

[MORE: Cubs make a splash with international signings]

“He’s been our All-Star, no question about it,” Sveum said. “You can’t count anything out in those situations with the players and coaches voting. Sometimes a guy like Travis Wood, unfortunately, might get overlooked because of the power of other people and they don’t really recognize it. 

“But he’s definitely been our All-Star. Every single outing has been pretty impressive.”

Even if Cubs fans have to sit through the bad endings.

“They’re going to make their decision on whoever it is,” Wood said of the All-Star opportunity. “Whoever it is (will) be deserving of it. So I don’t think about it at all.”