Travis Wood — Dale Sveum’s ‘No. 1’ guy — rings up his 22nd quality start
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter September 9, 2013 10:24PM
Updated: September 9, 2013 10:31PM
CINCINNATI — The Cubs could be on the verge of having a third different pitcher make their Opening Day start in as many seasons, the way Travis Wood has looked and how his manager talked about him Monday night.
To be clear, the Cubs aren’t anywhere near deciding who gets the ball seven months from now. But after Wood notched his 22nd quality start in a 2-0 victory over the surging Cincinnati Reds, manager Dale Sveum did everything but use the word “ace” when talking about Wood.
“He’s done one heck of a job all year long — as good as anybody,” Sveum said. “He’s our No. 1 starter. He’s proven it. Even his non-quality starts are like four runs in six innings. It’s been a pretty impressive run.”
Wood (9-11, 3.05) downplayed the praise.
“Every pitcher tries to pitch like that even if they don’t have the stuff that’s technically ace stuff,” he said. “I appreciate it, but we’re just going to keep rolling.”
If that translates to the first-day honor next spring, he would be the third in three openers (following Ryan Dempster in 2012 and Jeff Samardzija this year) — a first for the Cubs since Jon Lieber in 2000 became the seventh different opening starter in seven years.
Scott Baker, who wasn’t necessarily going to get even one start this month, will “definitely” get a second after a strong Cubs debut in his big-league return from Tommy John surgery.
Where Baker and the Cubs go from there — and if the former 15-game winner fits their potential plans for next year — is anything but that certain.
The Cubs took a $5.5-million flyer on the rehabbing Baker last fall, anticipating a return during the first half.
“Those are things that are obviously up to Jed and Theo,” Sveum said of GM Jed Hoyer and team president Theo Epstein. “But we’ll evaluate some more. Things went well. And when we get to the winter, starting pitching’s always a priority, and depth and everything else. But it’s still a wait-and-see-what-happens.”
“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Baker said of his future — including short-term — after an efficient five innings of scoreless work against the Brewers. “I’m very thankful they gave me the opportunity to start. They left it up to me if I wanted to continue this process.
“Physically, I’ve been feeling a little stronger each time out.”
It took seven starts, but Wood finally beat the team that originally drafted him and eventually traded him to the Cubs for Sean Marshall before last season.
“I’ve played some good games against them, and they’ve got me a few times, too,” said Wood, now 1-4 with a 3.52 ERA against the Reds. “So this one was nice.”