Cubs P Kerry Wood plans to retire
CHICAGO (AP) - Kerry Wood, who electrified baseball with a 20-strikeout game as a rookie in 1998 and then became a reliever after his career was slowed by injuries, is expected to retire after pitching one more time for the Chicago Cubs.
The 34-year-old Wood was in uniform Friday against the White Sox in the opener of their first interleague series of the season. The Cubs declined comment after multiple media outlets reported Wood’s decision, though manager Dale Sveum said Wood was available to pitch if needed.
“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.”
“One of those things you know it’s the most difficult thing you ever have to deal with,” Sveum said. “Everybody has to do it.”
Wood went on the disabled list earlier this season with shoulder fatigue. He has struggled, putting up an 0-2 record and 8.64 ERA in nine appearances before Friday’s game. After a poor outing against Atlanta on May 8, a frustrated Wood tossed his cap and glove into the stands.
In all, Wood has been on the disabled list 16 times over 13-plus seasons.
Coming into the year, Wood was 86-73 with a 3.64 ERA and 63 saves. He left the Cubs as a free agent in December 2008, signing with the Cleveland Indians for two years and $20.5 million. He was traded to the Yankees in July 2010, becoming Mariano Rivera’s setup man, but he remained loyal to Chicago.
He returned to the Cubs in 2011, when he went 3-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 55 relief appearances before shutting it down because of a tear in his left knee that required arthroscopic surgery. In January, Wood agreed to play for the Cubs again for $3 million _ double his 2011 pay _ with a $3 million club option for 2013.
It was no secret that Wood wanted to remain a Cub. He lives in Chicago year-round, and the team’s new regime had made it clear the feelings were mutual. New president of baseball operations Theo Epstein called it a “no-brainer” move to bring back the popular reliever.
The Cubs‘ No. 1 selection in the 1995 amateur draft was a 20-year-old rookie when he delivered one of the greatest pitching performances of all time. On May 6, 1998, he allowed only one hit, a third-inning single by Ricky Gutierrez, in a 2-0 victory over the Houston Astros. It was his fifth major league start.
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).
“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.”