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Travis Wood ready for whatever in move to Cubs bullpen

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Travis Wood ready for whatever in move to Cubs bullpen

Prior to Saturday, it had been four years since Travis Wood last appeared as a relief pitcher.

But the 28-year-old lefty will have to get used to pitching out of the bullpen now with the Cubs.

Wood was officially demoted to the bullpen Saturday and made his first appearance in his new role, picking up a save while giving a badly depleted bullpen a rest. It was the first save of his 11-year professional career.

"That was cool," Wood said Sunday. "To be able to come in and just give (Hector) Rondon the day off and go 1-2-3 and get the save was special."

Wood said manager Joe Maddon, pitching coach Chris Bosio and bullpen coach Lester Strode sat down with him before Saturday's game to let him know they might need him in relief against the Pirates that day but also that Wood would be in the bullpen for the near future.

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Wood is rather quiet and mostly keeps to himself but is known as a solid teammate and a good guy in the clubhouse, so his response was standard:

"On a personal level, maybe it is a little (disappointing), but as long as I'm here and can help the team win," he said. "We're playing great baseball right now, and everything I can do, regardless of what it is, I'll do it."

Wood admitted working as a reliever will take some getting used to after making 96 starts with the Cubs over the last three-plus seasons. He's used to throwing 100 pitches an outing and said that will be the biggest adjustment in this role change.

"(Not much changes) from a mental aspect," he said. "I'm still going out there and trying to get hitters out. The routine part will be a little different for me. I'll have to figure that out. I'm sure it won't be a problem."

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The Cubs believe Wood can find success in the bullpen, and he hopes he can iron some things out and get back to his 2013 All-Star level.

"I know we were pressed to do what we did (Saturday), but I have a lot of faith in this guy coming out of the 'pen," Maddon said. "He's had some really good games this year and some really good moments in other ones. Just to go out there and be aggressive and just let it go for an inning or two.

"If he does that, I think he'll be really good. I'm eager to see that. I think there's something there."

Maddon left the door open for Wood to return to the rotation again down the line if the situation presents itself.

The Cubs announced Sunday evening Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada will come off the disabled list and take Wood's spot in the rotation, beginning with Wednesday night's start in San Diego. Wada, 34, was 4-4 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 13 starts for the Cubs at the end of 2014.

Maddon loves to get creative with guys like Wood, who is athletic, runs the bases well and typically swings a good bat. Wood hit six homers in 2012 and 2013 and has nine for his career to go along with eight doubles, one triple and 30 RBIs.

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With the move to the bullpen, Wood's pinch-hitting and pinch-running appearances will be limited to those days he's unavailable to pitch. Though, that, too, might be a good thing as Wood admitted his at-bats "aren't what they used to be" and that he needs to iron his offense out as well.

Wood was laughing and joking around with the media Sunday, outwardly showing no ill effects from the demotion to the bullpen.

His attitude on the matter can be summed up perfectly in his response asking if he was bummed the baseball from his first career save was accidentally thrown into the stands and can't be kept as a memento:

"It's just a ball," Wood said. "I can grab any dirty ball and write on it."

Brandon Kintzler returns to Cubs bullpen, 'inspired' by Anthony Rizzo

Brandon Kintzler returns to Cubs bullpen, 'inspired' by Anthony Rizzo

Count Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler as one of many inspired by Anthony Rizzo’s stunning return to the starting lineup on Thursday.

Kintzler was nursing a mild left oblique strain that had kept him out of action since Sept. 10. While Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Thursday that the plan was for the 35-year-old to throw a bullpen session either Friday or Saturday, that soon changed.

“Yeah, I mean Rizzo inspired me,” Kintzler said with a smile on Friday. “I can’t sit here and worry about [an] oblique and this guy’s got one leg.”

Make no mistake, many MLB players aren’t feeling 100 percent come September each season. The Cubs are witnessing this firsthand, as Kris Bryant (knee) Javier Báez (thumb) and Rizzo (ankle) are among those dealing with injuries right now. Kintzler is no exception to this fact.

“It’s September,” he said with a laugh on Friday. “We’ll leave it all out there and see what happens.”

Granted, Kintzler did say that Friday he felt good. However, if it were earlier in the season, you can bet he’d throw a bullpen session, at the least, before returning to game action.

The Cubs bullpen has been stellar this month despite Kintzler’s nine-game absence. Entering Friday’s game, Cubs relievers have posted a 2.32 ERA, No. 1 in baseball by a comfortable margin over the second-ranked Rays (2.68). Kintzler and his 2.82 ERA should only help this cause.

Still, with the Cardinals in town and time running out for the Cubs to put a strangle hold on a postseason spot, it’s all hands on deck for the North Siders.

“These are important games, and I want to be a part of it,” Kintzler said. “I’ve been waiting all year to pitch in important games at Wrigley in September, so I’m not gonna waste a bullpen on it.”

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MLB Power Rankings: The final week is here

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MLB Power Rankings: The final week is here

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