Last spring, Travis Wood was in the minor leagues. Now, he’s heading to the All-Star Game.
The Cubs’ left-hander was named to the National League All-Star team Saturday night. He’s the lone representative of a losing club, but this isn’t one of those mandated selections.
This was earned.
“I feel amazing,” Wood said. “That’s kind of a goal you set as a player, to play like an All Star and be an All Star and be selected. It’s outstanding.”
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Wood has stood out all season long as one of the team’s best players, posting a 2.69 ERA in 17 starts, 16 of which have been quality starts. He's struck out 80 hitters in 110 1/3 innings, with a 5-6 record. The left-hander's win-loss totals don't accurately reflect just how good he's been this season, and his coaches and teammates feel his All-Star selection is most certainly warranted.
“He was our main candidate that had a great first half, led both leagues in quality starts, swung the bat great,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “He was just outstanding every day. It’s special for him because of where he came from and how things started out a year ago, to then make the All-Star team. It was pretty special for me to be able to tell him.”
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“He deserved it,” said fellow Cubs starter Edwin Jackson. “He’s been our most consistent pitcher. You pretty much know what you’re going to get out of him every time he takes the mound. Everyone’s happy for him. He definitely deserved that All-Star Game, and I hope he has a chance to pitch in it and absorb the energy and absorb the atmosphere and have a lot of fun with that game.”
After the Cubs’ 4-1 victory over the Pirates on Saturday, much of the talk was centered on Wood and the journey he’s made since being sent down to the minors after spring training last year. But he’s surely made Cubs brass happy this season, delivering the kind of performance they hoped for when they received him in the trade that sent Sean Marshall to Cincinnati.
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“It definitely feels good when you think about it like that because they did give up a lot,” Wood said. “Marshall’s an outstanding pitcher, one of the best left-handed pitchers out of the bullpen in the game right now. And for it to pay off like it has, hopefully it continues over the years to come.”
Even the pitcher himself admitted that the transformation from minor leaguer to All Star happened fast.
“It definitely happened quickly,” Wood said. “I got sent down out of spring training last year and then battled back. I thought I’d done what I needed. Really, every day you’re still learning. You take something, you learn something every day that you pick up a baseball and start throwing, whether it’s mechanical or just mental.”
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One of the men who has helped Wood on his way to All-Star success is Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio. He was extremely proud of Wood in his comments Saturday, and it showed how much this means to the people that have helped the pitcher along the way.
“It makes us all feel good just because he’s come so far,” Bosio said. “The road that this guy’s traveled, it’s a tremendous story. It really is. It seemed like he kept on getting overlooked and overlooked and overlooked. ... He wants to be up there with the Cliff Lees, the Clayton Kershaws. He may not have the 96 mile-an-hour fastball or that devastating curveball. But when you look at it at the end of the day: seven innings, six innings, giving up one earned run, always keeping your team in the game, the ability to swing the bat better, get bunts down. He’s worked hard on his game and he’s evolved into that guy who’s going to an All-Star Game now.”
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Wood is the first Cubs pitcher named to an All-Star team since 2009, when Ted Lilly was the team's lone representative. Lilly didn't pitch in that All-Star Game, so if Wood makes an appearance in New York, he'll be the first Cubs pitcher to do so since the trio of Ryan Dempster, Carlos Marmol and Carlos Zambrano took the hill in 2008, an All-Star Game that was also played in New York at old Yankee Stadium.
Wood is evidently excited about heading to the Midsummer Classic, and he doesn’t quite know what to expect when he gets there. Thankfully for him, he has a few teammates that have been there before -- Jackson, Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro -- that might be able to give him some advice. But, according to Wood, that hasn’t happened yet.
“Not yet,” he explained, “hopefully to come because right now I’m clueless.”