NEW YORK -- Joey Votto wishes Travis Wood had achieved this level of success with Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds’ four-time All-Star could see Wood possessed the talent and had the makeup of a good pitcher. But something didn’t click in Cincinnati with an organization that drafted Wood in the second round of the 2005 amateur draft.
Like many players before him, Votto thinks Wood, a first-time All-Star this week, has benefited from a fresh start with the Cubs.
Wood, who is 6-6 with a 2.79 ERA and a National League-high 17 quality starts this season, joined the Cubs in December 2011 as part of a trade that sent Sean Marshall to the Reds.
“I always thought really highly of Travis,” Votto said. “I thought he was a very good pitcher. I thought he had good stuff. It was really unfortunate that he did not pitch to this level for us in Cincinnati, but sometimes a change of scenery can help. Sometimes being around different people can help.”
Wood had a solid rookie campaign in 2010, posting a 3.51 ERA in 17 starts with the Reds. But he regressed in his second season and was made expendable when Cincinnati acquired starting pitcher Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres. A little more than a month later, the Reds packaged Wood with two players to acquire Marshall.
Wood doesn’t know that a change of scenery was necessary.
He’s generic when he talks about the deal, noting he took the news in stride and rolled with the punches. The left-hander thinks he had progressed in his second season even though his ERA jumped up by more than a point to 4.84. He believes the combination of everything coming together and perhaps the motivation of wanting to impress his new team was a fortuitous one.
“(I was) working on things I needed to work on, and they were coming along,” Wood said. “And just over the past year they’ve really hit stride and taken over. ... Coming into a new organization you want to do everything you can to make them know they made a good move.”
So far the Cubs have to be pretty satisfied on their end, and Wood in turn likes how the franchise’s plan has started to come along.
Wood knows he has work to do but would love to be part of the team’s blueprint for success and be in line for a contract extension like the ones signed by Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro in the previous 11 months.
“Theo and Jed and them are moving in the right direction,” Wood said. “We’ve got a great group of guys there, and everybody plays hard and as of late we’ve played solid ball. ... I’d love to be a part of the core group and stay around Chicago for a while, but that’s out of my hands. So I just take the ball every time they give it to me and try to help the team win.”
Unfortunately for Cincinnati, Votto predicts those victories are going to happen.
He likens Wood to fellow All-Star Cliff Lee, who works out with the Cubs pitcher in the offseason in their native Arkansas.
“He’s a tough left-hander,” Votto said. “It’s a little bit like facing Cliff Lee, but he’s not quite as tall and he’s more willing to throw out pitches. ... I’m really, really proud of him. I’m really happy for him, and he’s a real handful to face now whenever we play Chicago.”