MESA, Ariz. — The question of what went wrong was a familiar one for the Chicago Cubs last season.
With Travis Wood, the question to ask is: "What went right?"
Wood was the team's best starting pitcher, going 9-12 on a 66-win team with an ERA of 3.11 in 200 innings pitched. It added up to an All-Star Game appearance.
The Cubs are hoping for a repeat from Wood and a better season from pretty much everyone else.
"He really got a lot better," general manager Jed Hoyer said." He commanded his arm slot much better than the year before."
Hoyer credits Wood for being a serious competitor who "does all the little things well. He hits well. He fields well. He holds runners well. He's a good, winning pitcher."
A good example is Wood's work at the plate. He hit .222 with three homers and eight RBIs.
"We have to do it every fifth day in the National League," Wood said. "You might as well try to be the best you can at it."
Because of his standout season, and because the Cubs have so little experience, Wood, who just turned 27 this month, finds himself as something of a senior statesman in the clubhouse. He said it's a bit weird.
"Look around the room, and you don't see a ton of guys in here with a lot of time," he said. "We were young team last year. But I feel we've got even younger. You look around and see all the talent and the prospects, it will be exciting to see them come up."
Wood tried to set an example and worked on the little things.
"We have to figure out how to win the close ballgames, win the one-run games," he said. "Whenever you think you have it figured out, it creeps up and gets you. You never have anything figured out in this game. There's always something to learn, something to get better at."
Wood is working on a one-year contract, and not much appears to be happening at the moment on a long-term deal. Wood is taking the "same approach" as last year, when he was fighting for a spot in the rotation.
Hoyer doesn't like to talk about players' next contracts, but said the Cubs were excited to have Wood "and hope he's part of our future."
"I've kind of taken the same mentality because it seemed to work out pretty well for me; it keeps you on edge," Wood said. "I had a good season. But I've got to have a better one this year."
Wood looks around the locker room at the prospects who are on the verge of helping the team and says he'd like to be on board for the long run.
"I haven't talked about it much," he said. "But I see the direction they're headed. It's a good direction. I'd be happy to be a part of it."