Cubs

Travis Wood is looking like a keeper

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Travis Wood is looking like a keeper

NEW YORK Travis Wood doesnt seem to enjoy talking about himself, clipping his answers after a sentence or two.

But Wood isnt a frontrunner. Win or lose, hes been that way ever since he showed up in Arizona for spring training, as the centerpiece to the Sean Marshall trade with the Cincinnati Reds who didnt make the team out of camp.

At least on Friday night at Citi Field, Wood didnt have to try to explain a Carlos Marmol meltdown in the ninth inning. And the 25-year-old left-hander is starting to really look like a keeper.

Wood watched from the clubhouse as the Cubs hung on for an 8-7 victory over Johan Santana and the New York Mets. Instead of walking around the room in dead silence, the Cubs (32-51) blasted music.

It was getting interesting, Wood said, but he pulled it off.

Given a four-run lead, Marmol finally ended it when Lucas Duda lined a shot right back at the pitcher, who underhanded the ball to first base for the game-ending double play.

Wood saw his scoreless streak snapped at 19.2 innings. He wasnt particularly sharp, walking four batters, but he got through six innings, giving up three runs, two earned, to notch his fourth consecutive win.

Wood (4-3, 3.05 ERA) got a ton of support from Anthony Rizzo, who went 4-for-5 with a three-run homer off Santana, and leadoff man Reed Johnson (four hits, three runs scored).

I was very excited to face (Johan), a Cy Young winner who threw a no-hitter a couple of weeks ago, Rizzo said. (You) just try not to do too much against him. Hes a great pitcher.

In the same way that Rizzo seemed to have benefited from the extra time at Triple-A Iowa, enabling him to explode onto the scene, Wood has bounced back from his struggles in spring training and found something in the minors.

Wood has had to bring his A-game. Hes already beaten Santana twice and Jake Peavy and lost to Barry Zito and Justin Verlander.

Hes really been a boost, Rizzo said. I feel like he goes out there pretty much every time: Youre facing another ace today. He competes and hes a gamer.

As the Cubs take a long-range view of their future during this lost season, they may have found a legitimate rotation piece and their No. 3 hitter for years to come.

Ive been throwing the ball well, Wood said. As a team, weve been playing pretty good baseball the last couple weeks. We get a little (All-Star) break and get to settle down for a little bit. Hopefully, we come back and just keep it going.

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: