Kerry Wood had planned to pitch a full and successful season for the Chicago Cubs this year. Even though it didn’t turn out that way, Wood made the best of it as he walked away from the game his own way.
Reports surfaced early Friday that Wood had planned to retire from baseball, perhaps immediately. A fatigued shoulder had rendered him largely ineffective on the mound, and he no longer was a top option out of the bullpen for manager Dale Sveum.
But Wood wanted to pitch one more time before the Wrigley Field faithful. He did so in the eighth inning of the Cubs’ 3-2 loss to the White Sox, and he went out like he came in — with a strikeout.
Needing just three pitches, Wood struck out Dayan Viciedo on a curveball. That was it as he exited the mound to a standing ovation from both Cubs and White Sox fans. His son, Justin greeted him near the dugout for a hug, and Wood rode off on his own terms.
“It’s just time,” he said. “It was time. Just the grind of getting ready every day, to go through it, just to get ready for 15 pitches and go out there and not be successful. It was just time. It was time.”
Wood finished this year with a record of 0-2 and an ERA of 8.31. For his career, he was 86-75 with a 3.67 ERA and 1,582 strikeouts in 1,380 innings.
Wood became one of the most wildly popular Cubs of all time, perhaps because of his 20-strikeout game in May 1998, his Rookie of the Year season.
“I just can’t give enough credit to the fans,” said Wood, who added he did not have an explanation for his popularity. “Just a tremendous feeling.”
Manager Dale Sveum said he and Wood talked twice recently about possible retirement, their final talk coming Thursday.
“I love the game of baseball,” Wood said. “I had fun. I had a blast. I wouldn’t trade anything in.”