Kerry Wood gives away game, glove in Cubs’ loss to Braves
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org May 8, 2012 11:53PM
Chicago Cubs Vs Atlanta Braves. Chicago cubs No.34 Kerry Wood kicks the dirt after he gave up two runs in the 8Th-inning. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: June 11, 2012 9:22AM
By the time Kerry Wood reached the dugout Tuesday night, it looked more like a tall, skinny Charlie Brown had pitched the eighth inning instead of a Cubs setup man.
He no longer had his hat or his glove. And the Atlanta Braves had done everything but knock his clothes off in another rough late inning for one of the two — and supposedly only — known quantities the Cubs’ bullpen had when the season opened.
In a season of promised transition, one change that seems to be taking place earlier than expected is happening with the two bullpen guys with the highest salaries.
Four days after Carlos Marmol was demoted from his closer’s role, Wood walked two of the first four batters he faced to load the bases in the eighth, then gave up a two-run single to Dan Uggla for the difference in a 3-1 loss.
After escaping further damage with an inning-ending pickoff at second base, Wood hurled his glove seven rows deep behind the dugout and then threw his hat into the stands, too.
Asked about that reaction in front of 38,000 fans and a TV audience, Wood said:
‘‘Irrelevant, dude. Why the [expletive] would you even bring that up? You guys have a good night.’’
And then he left.
‘‘It doesn’t matter if you’re a young guy or a veteran guy,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. ‘‘You give up a couple runs and walk a couple guys, it’s frustrating.’’
Granted, Wood didn’t get hit especially hard, but his second rough outing since getting a cortisone shot and going on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue leaves more questions than answers about the back end of the bullpen.
Wood and Sveum both pronounced the two-time All-Star physically sound. ‘‘Shoulder’s great,’’ Wood said.
But Wood has rarely looked sharp in six appearances allowing six walks and seven earned runs in 41/3 innings.
And Sveum has seemed reluctant to trust him with critical late-inning spots, saying even before his return from the disabled list that Wood would be eased back into his primary setup role.
‘‘I made pretty good pitches tonight,’’ said Wood, who added the walk to Brian McCann to load the bases was about not giving in to the cleanup hitter and that Uggla’s base hit to center came against a defensive shift. ‘‘When things are going bad, you don’t get breaks,’’ he said.
But the inning started getting dicey two batters in, when Wood walked Martin Prado, who was trying to bunt the runner over.
‘‘They’re giving us an out, and he walked the guy,’’
Sveum said. ‘‘That’s probably the biggest play of the inning.’’
Even before the game, Sveum didn’t sound especially enthused about how and when he might feel good about using Wood.
‘‘He’s fine. He’s only gotten in one game since he’s been back,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘Those things are going to start changing, the more he’s gotten to pitch off the mound now and getting [the shoulder] stronger and stronger. He’s still an every-other [day] guy until that thing gets completely strong enough to go back-to-back days, too.’’
Completely strong enough?
Ryan Dempster, this year’s hard-luck starter who fell short of a win for the fifth straight start despite another stellar outing, sympathizes with his good friend.
‘‘Especially because I know he’s feeling good, and coming off the DL he’s had a couple rough outings,’’ said Dempster, whose ERA is 1.02 this season after seven innings Tuesday. ‘‘He’s a professional — as professional as anyone I’ve ever played with. Things will turn around.’’