Cubs' Kerry Wood retiring
"Kid K" went out in fitting fashion: with a strikeout.
After sources said Friday that Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood would retire after making one last appearance, Wood whiffed the Chicago White Sox's Dayan Viciedo in the eighth inning and promptly left the game.
"It's just time," Wood said after the game. "It was time. We saw how things were going this year and just not being able to recover and bounce back and do my job, essentially. You know, do what I'm supposed to do, day in and day out. Just the grind of getting ready every day. To go through it, hours to get ready for 15 pitches and go out there and not be successful.
"You know it was just time, time to give someone else a chance."
Knowing what was happening, the Wrigley faithful erupted and gave him a standing ovation. Wood shook hands with his teammates before leaving the mound and tipping his hat to the crowd. He looked surprised when his son, Justin, ran out to hug him before he reached the dugout.
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"I felt like I was getting ready to pitch my first inning. The adrenaline was the same, the nerves were the same. I can't give enough credit to the fans, just a tremendous feeling," Wood said.
Comcast SportsNet Chicago reported a news conference will be held on the field at Wrigley at 3 p.m. Saturday.
"It will be tough not seeing him out there pitching," pitcher Ryan Dempster said before the game, as Wood was shagging fly balls with his son. "I hope he goes out there and finishes on a great note. He's been a great friend and a great teammate and a great Chicago Cub."
Initially, it was reported Wood would retire Friday, but the plan to let him pitch once more prior to the announcement was revealed by sources. That opportunity happened Friday.
Wood appeared to start his going-away party by taking out the lineup card Friday.
"One of those things you know it's the most difficult thing you ever have to deal with," manager Dale Sveum said of retirement. "Everybody has to do it."
Wood, 34, is 0-2 with a 8.64 ERA and has been battling health issues all season.
Wood is best known for his 20-strikeout game during his rookie of the year campaign in 1998, earning him the nickname "Kid K."
As the game progressed and with rain falling, Wood's stuff was never better. Throwing fastballs at 100 mph and with his slider dipping around the Houston bats, Wood didn't walk a batter, hit one with a pitch and gave up that lone infield single in the third on a ball Cubs third baseman Kevin Orie couldn't come up with.
When Wood fanned Bill Spiers in the ninth for his 19th strikeout, Wood tied the National League record. He struck out Derek Bell to end the game and tie Roger Clemens' major league mark (the two still remain the only MLB pitchers to do it in nine innings).
Highest K/9 IP, MLB History
Among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings, Kerry Wood is one of three in MLB history whose strikeouts per nine innings was 10.0 or higher.
|>>Min. 1,000 innings|
"I didn't know how many strikeouts I had. I knew I had already given up a hit in the third inning," Wood later recalled. "I was just trying to get my first complete game."
He added: "I'll never forget it. It's a great moment in my life and my career."
Wood said his slider was his main weapon that day as he struck out the side in the first, fifth, seventh and eighth innings, and fanned two each in the second, fourth and ninth, and one each in the third and the sixth. Wood threw 122 pitches, 84 for strikes, and got a congratulatory phone call from Clemens afterward.
"The age, as hard as he threw, the command and the poise that he had on the mound, nothing bothered him that day," Gutierrez recalled. "After the game, we just took our hats off to him. He did a great job. There's nothing you can take away from him."
Wood went on to be a driving force behind four playoff teams -- 1998, 2003, 2007 and 2008. He won two games against the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS in 2003, pushing the Cubs into the NLCS.
When word spread that Wood was planning to step down, White Sox players offered their take.
Starter Jake Peavy said Wood was a pitcher "you wanted to be like because of how dominant he was as a starter and then when he went to the bullpen."
The dominance of Wood's 20-strikeout game left a big impression.
"I can you tell you when you watch that game and you watch what he did to a big league lineup," Peavy said. "I'm not taking anything away from any of these games, you can go watch Phil [Humber] and his perfect game, you can go watch Mark Buehrle and his perfect game, please don't take this the wrong way, but there's not a comparison to what he did and the domination and sheer fact 'I'm so much better than you today.' That's incredible."
First baseman Paul Konerko lauded Wood as a "a guy who came right at you and challenged you."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura recalled the phenomenon that Wood was as a young pitcher.
"I think with everything going on now with [the Nationals' Stephen] Strasburg, before him, it was Kerry Wood. When he came up, he was as good as there ever was," Ventura said. "He threw hard, great curveball, competitor, professional. It's always sad when you see a guy like him ... make that choice."
Unable to stay healthy as a starter, Wood remade himself into an effective closer. He saved 34 games for the Cubs in 2007 and priced himself out of the Cubs' plans.
He signed a two-year, $20.5 million contract with the Cleveland Indians. He spent 1½ seasons in Cleveland before being traded to the New York Yankees in 2010, and was part of their bullpen as they advanced to the ALCS.
"Most every day he went out there, especially before he had the arm surgery, he had no-hit stuff," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was Wood's teammate from 2000 to '02 with the Cubs and then managed him in New York. "Loved playing with him. He loved to play the game. He really did."
Wood then returned to the Cubs in 2011 at a bargain price, $1.5 million for one year. He had maintained a residence in Chicago and is considered one of the most popular Cubs in recent history.
Wood's final season has been a rough one. He barely pitched five innings in Cactus League play because of what turned out to be shoulder discomfort. He walked three batters on Opening Day and blew a save. Two days later, he took the loss in giving up three runs.
The low point came May 8, when a frustrated Wood tossed his cap and glove into the stands as he was walking to the dugout after being pulled by Sveum. Wood walked two batters and gave up two runs in the eighth inning that allowed the Atlanta Braves to break a tie game and eventually win.
The normally accommodating Wood cut his postgame interview short and walked away when a reporter asked him about the incident after the game.
Wood had to return home during the middle of the Cubs' first road trip in April, and he received a cortisone injection in the shoulder. He eventually went on the disabled list.
Tuesday was just the second outing for Wood since coming off the DL, and he had given up two runs in each of those appearances.
"My body wasn't bouncing back this year. I felt like I was putting guys in the 'pen in situations they didn't need to be in. I definitely didn't want to go out with my last inning being me throwing my glove in the seats," Wood said. "I wanted to put up a zero or at least get one guy out."
The two-time All-Star has an 86-75 record and 3.67 ERA. He also has 63 saves.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.