CHICAGO -- Although the Chicago Cubs are mostly just playing out the string of September games, starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood both have the goal completing 200 innings on the mound for the season.
Both pitchers have been progressing as top-of-rotation pitchers for the team in 2013.
Going into April, the Cubs had only Matt Garza and Edwin Jackson who had pitched 200 or more innings in a season at the big league level. (Garza did not pitch until late May due to a shoulder injury.)
For that reason alone, the organization must establish young starting pitchers to gain some credibility going forward with their plans to be competitive in 2015 and beyond.
The 200-inning plateau is a proud benchmark that all major league starting pitchers hope to accomplish every year.
“I think it is huge for Jeff to get there,” Wood said. “You need it for confidence, with this being his second year as a starter. Last year he was on pace to do it, but they shut him down in mid-September. He picked up right where he left off and he is going to get there and then some.”
Wood also is looking to surpass the 200-inning mark. After being the lone All-Star for the Cubs this season, this goal is next on the lefty’s list.
“I think in every pitcher’s mind that is the number that is ingrained when you start the season,” Wood said. “Yeah, for me to get there again will be big.”
Wood had 197 combined innings last season at both levels and 202 in a combined minor and major league stint in 2010.
Pitching coach Chris Bosio has worked long hours with his pitchers, bringing along the novice starters to this important level.
“One of the goals this offseason was for these guys to make every start,” said Bosio, now in his second year as pitching coach. “Another goal was for these guys to be out there for at least six innings, and possibly longer.”
“The 200-inning milestone is huge for any pitcher and especially in the National League, with all the switches the manager must make,” he said. “Both of these guys have done that. They helped stay in games with their at-bats and defense.
“The complete pitcher does all of that to stay in games and help his team win. This is something as an organization we shot for, and something they both wanted badly.”
Samardzija worked many hours in the offseason running up his favorite mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz., as a part of his conditioning program.
“Two-hundred innings is more an indication that you were good enough to keep your team in games,” he said. “It means you have been pitching in the zone, you have been throwing strikes and you are consistent and durable.
“This is what you strive for as a starting pitcher. There are other facts that make your season look positive or negative.”
Those things that go unmentioned include an offense that has rarely tallied more than three runs per game in the second half of the season.
Neither Wood nor Samardzija appear to have a shot at a winning season. With five starts left for each, Wood and Samardzija have 8-11 records.
Throwing 200 innings is a goal of any pitcher when the season starts, according to Cubs manager Dale Sveum.
“It is a measuring stick showing you did your job and went deep enough in games to help the bullpen out on a fairly consistent basis,” Sveum said.