MESA, Ariz. – Could pitcher Travis Wood wind up in the Cubs outfield at some point this year?
With new manager Joe Maddon’s innovative, unpredictable ways of looking at his roster, who knows?
One thing that’s certain is that it’s not a new thought to Cubs officials, who have at least joked about the idea in recent years when talking about how athletic Wood is.
Another certainty: Wood is projected to have an expanded role on Maddon’s team beyond left-handed pitcher.
When he came off the bench to pinch hit early in Sunday’s game against San Diego’s James Shields, it was part of his preparation for the season.
Maddon told Wood he could be his first right-handed hitter off the bench in certain situations this year.
“Like, `If your pitcher’s out in the fifth and you go to a short bench and you don’t want to waste a guy, that’s a prime spot for you, so I just want you to be prepared for that,’ “ said Wood, who hit .232 last year with three home runs and a better slugging percentage than Welington Castillo or Mike Olt.
Wood said he hasn’t been told about playing another defensive position. “But I’d do it in a heartbeat,” he said.
The short bench Maddon mentioned to Wood is the likely result of a three-man catching corps early in the season (unless the Cubs can move Castillo to one of at least four teams that have asked about him this spring) – and possibly a 13-man pitching staff.
Maddon won’t divulge the fifth-starter plan that would keep both Wood and Edwin Jackson in the starting mix – along with four locked-in starters – but conversations with others in the organization suggest shared swing-man/platoon that would require detailed planning and potentially difficult-to-manipulate bullpen appearances.
Wood, for instance, has fared especially well in his career against Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Colorado and the Mets; Jackson against Washington, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee.