Kerry Wood the Closer—Say What?

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IMarch 24, 2008

Excuse me...Do my eyes deceive me?

Not only is Kerry Wood healthy and pitching—he is officially the closer for the 2008 Chicago Cubs.

Really, that's great to hear and all, but there are only two things that come to mind when I hear that statement.

The first, "Oh great, it will just take him twice as long to get hurt this year."

The second, "Wait, Kerry Wood is closing?!"

I follow baseball and I do know that Kerry Wood is a relief pitcher now and has been since last year.

But how on earth did he win a job to close ball games?

I guess when your incumbent is Ryan Dempster, who was moved to the rotation, it's not very hard.

Then again, we are talking about a guy who had the talent to strike out 233 hitters during his rookie season of only 26 games.

However, this guy has not one career save to his credit.

I guess I'm just being skeptical about this, but who wouldn't be?

While Wood has pitched in at least 20 games every year of his career except for 2006 and 1999 when he underwent Tommy John surgery, injuries have derailed what was once a "phenom" of a pitcher.

If you don't remember that far back, Kerry Wood is the same rookie that struck out 20 batters in his fifth career start. By the way, he only surrendered one hit in that game.

He was that close away from having quite possibly the most dominating games in the history of the game.

After a rocky year coming off surgery, Wood returned to form in 2001. For the next three years he struck out at least 170 batters, pitched at least 170 innings, won at least 12 games, and kept his ERA under 3.70.

Wood, along with fellow former Cubs pitching savior Mark Prior, helped lead the Cubs to the playoffs. The rest I won't talk about for the sake of Cubs fans.

His innings count began to dwindle year by year.

Now, after returning late last year as a reliever, it looks like Wood is back and ready to begin a new chapter in his career.

This is someone I grew up watching. Some of you might have grown up watching Ken Griffey Jr. making waves in the major leagues, maybe even Alex Rodriguez if you are a little older than me. 

But when I started following baseball this was the story. Kerry Wood was the one highlighting Baseball Tonight.

My younger fan years were spent watching Kerry Wood being hyped up as one of the stars of the future. It was the Indians’ failing at winning it all and Kerry Wood for me.

Now he has reached a point in his career that injuries have put him in a position to be just a closer.

Not that it's a bad thing. But it just goes to show you how far some can fall.  

The adjective “dominating” isn’t thrown around much, then again, these days a lot of people exaggerate about prospects.

But Kerry Wood was pretty much handcuffed to the word. Some people still use it to describe his pitching. I even described it to use his fifth career game.

Can he be dominating in this new chapter of his career though?

Lou Piniella has said he's earned it. Kerry Wood says he’s ready for it. So I figure, why not?  

Good luck to Kerry Wood in 2008. I’m not really sure if it's luck that Wood needs at this point though. He just needs to stay out of the trainer’s room. 


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