As body failed Kerry Wood, he chose not to fail Cubs
By GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com May 18, 2012 10:04PM
Kerry Wood of the Cubs is congratulated by teammates after pitching in his final appearance as a Major League pitcher in the eighth inning at Wrigley Field Friday, May 18, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: July 1, 2012 12:25PM
In the end, it was a sense of responsibility as much as the physical limits that brought an end to the storied and star-crossed pitching career of Kerry Wood on Friday.
‘‘You saw how things were going this year,’’ said Wood, who informed the Cubs of his final retirement decision Thursday after more than a week of deliberating with family, friends and teammates. ‘‘I wasn’t bouncing back this year. I felt I was putting guys in the pen in situations that they didn’t need to be put in, and putting [manager] Dale [Sveum] in situations where his hands were kind of tied using me.
‘‘I definitely didn’t want to go out with my last inning [at Wrigley Field] being me throwing my glove in the seats. I wanted to put up a zero or at least get one guy out.’’
Before his three-pitch strikeout of the White Sox’ Dayan Viciedo in a 3-2 loss Friday, Wood’s last Wrigley appearance was a two-walk, two-run eighth inning May 8 that left him with a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves. He hurled his glove and cap into the stands as he left.
Where Wood goes from here is as obvious as it is unspecific. He’ll almost certainly remain in the Cubs organization in some capacity after this season, whether as a part-time instructor, front-office ambassador or some combination.
How he got to a retirement decision less than a quarter into the season was about a damaged shoulder that, by his account, recovered miraculously in 2007 but finally didn’t allow him ‘‘to just do my job’’ this season.
Wood still could throw in the mid-90s, but not with much command, and the consequence of his recovery was that his availability became day-to-day.
‘‘We all get to this point,’’ he said. ‘‘We don’t all get to choose when. We don’t all get to have a say in it. I was fortunate enough to play this game a long time and play in a wonderful city in front of the best fans in baseball. It was just time.’’
His retirement comes almost 14 years to the day from the moment he launched the ‘‘Kid K’’ legend with 20 strikeouts against the Houston Astros — which in the end became both a talisman and an albatross for his career.
‘‘Good and bad, no doubt about it,’’ he said. ‘‘Obviously, it raised the bar and raised the expectations for me every time I took the mound. But I felt like I fed off that and thrived at it. But, again, you get labeled from it. But I’m not going to say it’s all bad.’’
In the end, ‘‘I had fun. I had a blast,’’ he said. ‘‘I wouldn’t trade anything in.
‘‘I learned a lot from a lot of the injuries; I learned my body. I learned what it takes to compete and go out and play this game every day. I’ve got respect for guys that have played this game for a long time because it’s not easy to do.’’