9th Inning Wood

A lot of people come up and ask me what I think about the possibility of Kerry Wood as the new Cubs closer. Now I have a lot of experience pitching, and I have a lot of experience pitching for the Cubs, but I never know what to tell the fans when this question comes up. Well Wood is hurt again and won't throw for at least three weeks, so now is a good time to take a closer look at the facts of the situation !!

  • Like Dennis Eckersley, Wood started his career as a starting pitcher for the Cubs. Eckersley showed that power pitchers can make the transition to the bullpen.

  • I pitched with Eckersley during the Cubs magical pennant run in 1984, and we used to sit in the bullpen on days we didn't pitch. Now Eck was a guy who loved his fun, let me put it that way. So we'd be sitting there in the pen and he'd bet me ten Red Baron pizzas that he could throw harder than I could. He was clever with his bets !! So we'd both get up and find Jody Davis, he was usually over by the cooler in the dugout just sitting quietly. We'd have him come out to the bullpen mound and we'd both wind up and fire our best heat at him. Jody would tell us which fastball got there first. Well nine times out of ten Eck would blow my fastball away, and it wasn't just because of my legendarily slow delivery home. Eck just had the stuff, there was no doubt in my mind. I remember joking with him after one of these contests that he shouldn't let Lee Smith see him warming up down here, he'd fear for his job security !! Well if you want to find if he took my advice, just call up Cooperstown and ask for Dennis. Point is, he was made to be a closer even though he was a starting pitcher for much of his career.

So there's a lot to be said for Kerry Wood filling in the Cubs obvious hole at closer when he fully recovers from his injury in a month or so. A hard-throwing Texan with attitude could be just what the Cubs need to finish games out in the rough-and-tumble NL Central this year.

Rick Sutcliffe is a color commentator for ESPN Baseball. He won the Cy Young award in 1984.


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