RedEye

Travis Wood crashes Anthony Rizzo's beatification

This one is too easy: Anthony Rizzo finally got called up from the minors and will make his Cubs debut after going 0-for-his-last-9 in Iowa. So, yeah, he’s a perfect Cub.

See? Told you it was too easy.

But seriously, folks, Rizzo will start against the Mets in Tuesday night’s game, also known as Theo Epstein’s Opening Day.

I expect Rizzo to get a standing ovation before his first at-bat, but sorry, he’s not the big news.

While everybody seemed to be wishing the calendar forward a day, Travis Wood was making sharp Cubs fans stop and notice the present on Monday night.

There’s nothing wrong with anticipating the Next Big Thing. Just don’t miss the blossoming story of a potential top-of-the-rotation starter.

Rizzo has done nothing except inspire hope, which is usually the only thing most Cubs prospects accomplish. Isn’t that right, Corey Patterson, Hee-Seop Choi and Brooks Kieschnick?

Wood, meanwhile, has delivered. Just ask the Mets, who I believe are still flailing at his pitches from Monday night.

All of a sudden, Wood has won two in a row, most recently out-pitching fellow left-hander and no-hit ace Johan Santana.

Wood, remember, is no different than Rizzo if you look at their roads to the Cubs. Both were acquired for a pitcher after Epstein got here, moving out the Jim Hendry pieces and bringing in the Chosen One’s chosen ones.

Rizzo came from the Padres in exchange for power-armed Andrew Cashner last January. Wood came from the Reds as the key part of the Sean Marshall trade about two weeks earlier.

So, it’s not as if Rizzo was drafted, developed and delivered to the majors by the Cubs with stardom waiting. We’d notice if that were the case. We noticed Starlin Castro, and that’s about it.

If you’re smart, though, you’d notice what Wood is doing and recognize that he might be more important than Rizzo. I’ll take pitching over hitting any day. That’s my bias. Pitching wins. Pitching always gives you a chance. See Chris Volstad for details. That’s why I think Wood could turn out to be more important than Rizzo.

If nothing else, Wood has produced a lot of good in a season that is bad even by Cubs standards. Most notably, Wood has posted a 2.27 ERA in five starts this month, and really, he has had only one bad outing this season, allowing six earned runs in five innings against the Padres on a windy day. But other than that, Wood has not allowed more than three earned runs in any start since being recalled in May. His 1.20 WHIP matches St. Louis’ sure-fire All-Star Lance Lynn. He’s headed toward a strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 2-1 for the season. He already has done that this month.

And Wood appears to be headed to the top of the rotation for many of the years in which Rizzo is projected to star and wreak havoc and have his number retired.

Nothing against Rizzo. I hope he’s everything Cubs fans hope he is. But I think it’s important to acknowledge the development and contributions of one of the few current Cubs pitchers who figures to be here when the Cubs become good again.

Chicks might still dig the long ball, but smart teams value the well-located fastball.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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