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Travis Wood proving he belongs

5/14/2013

CHICAGO -- While the Chicago Cubs are locking up their young players they might as well sign up pitcher Travis Wood, too.

If it was up to manager Dale Sveum, Wood might be next to get a long-term deal after lowering his ERA to 2.03 in a 9-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Monday. He was fantastic.

“As far as I’m concerned he’s put himself there,” Sveum said after the two-hit gem by Wood. “What he’s done since spring training of last year is pretty impressive.”

Wood didn’t make the Cubs when they broke camp in 2012 but he didn’t let it get him down and now he’s reaping the rewards of his hard work. He earned his major-league leading eighth quality start of the year, tying a Cubs record to begin a season which was set in 1919.

“I’m fortunate enough to have some good games so far,” Wood said after throwing seven shutout innings on Monday. “I’ve had good command of all my pitches and have kept them off balance.”

His cutter was “perfect” as catcher Welington Castillo put it. Inside and out, up and down, Wood barely had a hard hit ball against him. He recorded 12 fly outs and only one came on a line drive to the outfield.

“He’s doing a lot of this without secondary pitches,” Sveum marveled.

All the success is leading to that question which was answered for Anthony Rizzo on Monday. When does the 26-year-old Wood start to think about planting roots in Chicago?

“I would love to be here for a long time with the Cubs,” Wood said. “It’s out of my hands and I’m not really thinking about that right now.”

Wood isn’t even arbitration-eligible yet and he can’t become a free agent until 2017. Before the game Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer acknowledged signing up pitchers is a different “calculus” due to potential injury. So it’s hard to know what kind of a deal Wood could command -- and when he would command it.

For now, he’s more concerned with his raggedy beard. He won’t be shaving it anytime soon. Baseball is a game of superstitions, after all.

“I’m not real sure what I’m doing with it,” Wood joked. “I didn’t really intend to keep it going but it’s kind of hard to cut it right now.”

And now Wood will have to deal with success as well. After his last start he said he needed to stay humble and that was before his ERA entered the top 10 among regular starters in the league. But a big head is the last thing Wood’s manager is concerned with.

“He’s the same guy every day,” Sveum said. “You can guarantee one thing besides the sun coming up. Travis Wood is going to be the same guy the next day.”

And probably throw a quality start.