Cubs

Wood ready to contribute on Cubs

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Wood ready to contribute on Cubs

In dealing away arguably the best relief pitcher in the game in Sean Marshall, the Cubs had to be getting something good in return.

While the two prospects were a definite plus, Travis Wood was the biggest part of the deal coming back to Chicago.

"The organization needs more starting pitching, both at the big-league level and in the minor leagues," Cubs president Theo Epstein said in a conference call Friday after the trade became official. "You've got to start somewhere. We're really happy to acquire Travis Wood.

"Twenty-four-year-old left-handed starters who have already had success in the big leagues don't grow on trees. We had to give up a great relief pitcher in Sean Marshall, somebody we were proud to call a Cub. We think to acquire Wood and the two young guys, it was worth doing."

Wood found success right away in the big leagues in 2010, compiling a 3.51 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 17 starts. He even put up a near-perfect game in a duel with perennial Cy Young winner Roy Halladay.

He struggled in 2011, however, bouncing between the Reds and their Triple-A affiliate last season. He struggled to the tune of a 4.84 ERA and 1.49 WHIP while giving up 10 hits per nine innings.

"We still think all the ingredients are there to make him an excellent starting pitcher in the big leagues," Epstein said. "You're not be able to get guys like that after their strong rookie years. Sometimes, you have a chance to get them after they take a little bit of their lumps on the learning curve and that was how we see last year.

"It was a good developmental year for him. Hopefully he can come in and learn from what he went through last year and pick up where he left off in 2010."

When the Reds traded for Mat Latos last weekend, Wood was kind of the odd man out in the Cincinnati rotation.

"This trade is a great opportunity for me," the Arkansas native said his southern twang. "The Reds do have a lot of depth in their rotation, whether they'd fit me in there or not. I was kind of back and forth between the rotation and starting in 2011, so hopefully I'll get to Chicago and be able to make a difference."

Besides the opportunity to have an impact in the rotation, Wood will probably benefit just from leaving Cincinnati.

In 15 career games (13 starts) at Great American Ballpark -- a notorious hitter's paradise -- Wood has a 5.30 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and .294 batting average against. In 24 games (22 starts) on the road, those numbers drop to 3.58, 1.18 and .237.

He also boasts a 3.38 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and .133 batting average against in two games at Wrigley Field.

"I think I'm feeling very comfortable," Wood said. "I like Wrigley Field and everything, so we're just going to go out there and take it a day at a time and see what happens."

The former second-round pick will turn 25 in February, but is under team control through 2016, a point that was very important to Epstein and his front office staff.

"I believe this fits what we're trying to do in the bigger picture," Epstein said. "Age is one thing, but years of control is another important factor."

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

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USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, a source confirming the team declined a club contract option for next year and made a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

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USA TODAY

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

In Theo Epstein's end of season press conference on Friday he said that any coach Joe Maddon wants back will return in 2018.

Evidently, there's one coach Maddon didn't want back.

According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Cubs have fired longtime pitching coach Chris Bosio.

Bosio served as the Cubs pitching coach from 2012-17. He was the team's pitching coach under former managers' Dale Sveum (2012-13) and Rick Renteria (2014), and was retained when Maddon was hired as manager of the Cubs in 2015.

Bosio, who is one of the most respected pitching coaches in baseball, was instrumental in the career resurgence of Jake Arrieta who captured the Cy Young award in 2015, and the development of 27-year-old starter Kyle Hendricks (MLB's ERA leader in 2016).

One reason that could've led to Bosio's firing was the pitching staff's control issues during both the regular season and postseason, which Epstein mentioned during Friday's press conference. The Cubs issued the fifth-most walks (554) in the National League during the regular season and the highest total (53) during the postseason.

As the Cubs hit the market for a new pitching coach, Nightengale mentioned that one name that could be on the radar is former Tampa Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, who parted ways with the organization following the 2017 season.

Hickey served as Maddon's pitching coach in Tampa Bay from 2006-2014.