02/17/08 10:00 AM ET
Wood feeling good as camp opens
Cubs right-hander in three-way battle for closer's role
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"Obviously, it would be an exciting role to be in," he said. "Is it a goal? My goal right now is just to go out and get through spring and be ready to go when the season starts in whatever role that will be."Piniella has said he'll let the situation play itself out. This could be reminiscent of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds' "Nasty Boys" bullpen of Randy Myers, Norm Charlton and Rob Dibble. But Piniella doesn't want three closers, just one. "Everybody talks about the closer role and rightfully so because you have to get the last three outs of the ballgame, but to me, those seventh and eighth innings, those are the nuts and bolts of a bullpen," Piniella said. "You don't get through that, the closer doesn't figure in the ninth." As far as Wood, 30, is concerned, it doesn't matter if he's pitching in the second or the sixth or the ninth. His job remains the same. "Once you're on the mound, for me, I don't think it should matter what inning you're in," he said. "You're there to get those guys out. Obviously, there's a little more pressure in the ninth inning. We'll see." He didn't spend the offseason picking the brains of other closers. Wood and wife Sarah were busy as they celebrated the arrival of their second child, daughter Katy. After 11 stints on the disabled list plus elbow and shoulder surgeries, Wood has given up the notion of returning to the rotation. "I felt great finishing last year. From Day 1 picking up the ball this year, I feel normal again and it's nice," he said. He was the last Cubs pitcher on the mound in 2007, finishing Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was the only time he pitched the ninth inning last season. Wood begins the 2008 season fourth on the Cubs' all-time strikeout list with 1,323. Next up is Rick Reuschel, who fanned 1,367. Fergie Jenkins is the all-time leader with 2,038. Will Wood add to that list as the closer? "Obviously, it's different and a different mind-set," he said. "Anytime it's late in the game, it's important. Every at-bat is important. Toward the end of the game, you get a little more anxious."
It's just a matter of getting the job done.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.