09/12/2002 7:12 pm ET
MLBeat: Wood taking no chances
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- On Friday the 13th, most people simply watch out for black cats and avoid ladders. Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood has his own strange habits that he adheres to before every start.
"It starts the night before," said Wood (10-9, 3.73 ERA), who was scheduled to start Friday against Cincinnati. "I try to watch some type of baseball game, and Sarah [Wood's fiance] knows to leave me alone.
"We have a little flower shop at the end of the street, and they had a sign in the window that said "Lucky bamboo," and it's a little thing of bamboo," he said. "She picks one up every fifth day and brings it to the house and puts it in front of me when I'm watching a game. I think it's kind of weird."
Their home now is overrun with bamboo plants, but never mind that.
If the Cubs are home, Wood's route to the ballpark depends on how he fared the last time. If he did well, he'll take the same streets. If not, he'll go a different direction.
Wood insists that certain clubhouse routines be adhered to, as well. The trainers, for example, must tape his right ankle first, then his left.
"Once I get here," Wood said, "everything is normal until after [batting practice]. After BP, I have certain music I listen to and a certain time I go in for my rub. It's usually Pearl Jam early and then, right before I go out, I turn it up a little bit. It gets a little harder, like Limp Bizkit or something. When I get my rub [before the game], I go in at a certain time every game, like an hour-and-four-minutes before the game starts."
His bullpen routine is pretty boring. There's nothing in particular to note.
Not so when he returns to the dugout, however. "I've got the same towel and water bottle that I had in the bullpen," Wood said. "I use that same towel the whole time. No one can touch the towel.
"The trainers switch back and forth, [but] if Sandy [Krum, assistant trainer] is in the dugout and he gets me water and I do good in the first inning, he has to get me water every inning."
Seems reasonable enough.
"For the first inning, I put my hat on, I spit my last little thing of water, grab my glove, I take six steps to the stairs -- I sit on a certain part of the bench all the time," Wood said. "I do everything in intervals of three. One-two-three, one-two-three up the stairs, three steps in the dirt, nine steps in the grass before I get to the line, then two steps on the side of the line, one step on the other side of the line.
"Nine more steps toward the mound, then I pick the ball up and take three up to the mound," he said. "My last two, I go on the rubber and then I go."
And when the infielders throw the ball around the infield after an out?
"I've got to put [the rosin] on the back of my hand and then slap it down and I put one, two, and then keep my right foot in the air until I touch the ball from the third baseman," he said. "Then I go to the mound and do my stuff."
"It gets a little weird," he admitted.
Does he eat the same thing before every game?
"No," Wood said, laughing, "I'm not that crazy."
Saturday in the park: Right-hander Matt Clement said Thursday he expects to make his start Saturday. Clement (12-9, 3.41 ERA) had to leave his last outing on Monday against Montreal after four-plus innings because of back spasms.
"I didn't feel it at all," said Clement, who threw on the side Thursday. "They told me I wasn't holding back [during the side session]. I can't guarantee anything, but I'm planning on going out Saturday and pitching."
Cubs interim manager Bruce Kimm said he had a backup plan if Clement couldn't go.
Family ties: Rookie Hee Seop Choi will get some playing time as the season winds down, but Kimm didn't want to say the Korean first baseman would alternate with Fred McGriff.
Choi was expecting his parents to come to Chicago for the Cubs final homestand, which starts Sept. 24.
In a recent interview with MLB.com, Choi, 23, said he missed his parents. It also was incorrectly reported that he missed a girlfriend from Korea. This may break a few hearts, but he does not have a girlfriend in Korea.
Extra bases: Third baseman Kevin Orie got his second straight start Thursday. Kimm said he wanted to give Mark Bellhorn a day off in addition to taking a look at Orie. ... Kimm was asked if he saw any difference in the team after his talk last Sunday in St. Louis. "It seemed like we had a little more bounce in our step," Kimm said. The Cubs are 2-1 since he ripped into them for their lackluster play.
Fantasy Edge: Kevin Orie went 2-for-4 in his first start for the Cubs on Wednesday and got another start Thursday. But Mark Bellhorn will likely be back in the lineup Friday. He struggled during the last homestand, going 2-for-13.
Carrie Muskat covers the Cubs for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.