GOODYEAR, Ariz. – The Cubs have one obvious candidate to start Opening Day in Jeff Samardzija, the longest-tenured guy on the team and a 200-innings/200-strikeouts force.
But you have to respect Travis Wood’s consistency – 24 quality starts – and the All-Star season he put together last year (9-12, 3.11 ERA).
Still, Cubs manager Rick Renteria declined to say it’s a “two-horse race” when a reporter floated that idea before Thursday’s 1-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark. Even with Edwin Jackson coming off a year in which he led the majors with 18 losses and Jake Arrieta expected to begin the season on the disabled list.
“As we get closer to the end of spring, and these guys are still throwing,” Renteria said, “based on where they’re throwing on their days here during the spring, it would probably fall in where they’re at. It would give you a determination, so to speak.”
After getting rained out last week, Wood looked sharp in his first Cactus League outing this spring, throwing three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and getting three strikeouts. The 27-year-old lefty hasn’t been paying attention to how it lines up for March 31 against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
“I got no control over it,” Wood said. “(Renteria’s) going to pick whoever he’s going to pick. I’m just going out there and getting ready for the season. They’ll tell me when I’m going to pitch.”
Wood and Samardzija can usually be seen together at Cubs Park. Their lockers are grouped on one side of the room and they’ve developed a morning routine. Their throwing programs are on similar schedules.
After watching Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Matt Garza and Scott Feldman get traded the past two summers, the lead dogs in the rotation are going to enjoy this while it lasts.
“That’s kind of what we want to build off this year,” Wood said. “Push each other and bounce ideas and see what each guy thinks. I think we can both get better and grow in the game that way.”