7/15 All-Star Travis Wood

On Monday, Travis Wood will be in New York to take part in the All-Star Game festivities. This will be a special event because Wood will be teammates with Phillies pitcher and fellow Arkansas native, Cliff Lee. The two live about five minutes apart, although they did go to different high schools growing up. They train together in the offseason and this past winter, went hunting together, and killed a deer. They don’t talk baseball while hunting.

“It’s all about hunting when we’re hunting,” Wood said.

This is Lee’s fourth All-Star Game, while it’s Wood’s first trip.

“Earlier in my career, when I first started working out with him, he helped me along and gave me some pointers on how to go about some things,” Wood said of the Phillies’ lefty. “Other than that, we’ve talked baseball and don’t really try to get into anything mental or mechanical or anything like that. [In the offseason], it was pushing each other, working out, and getting ready for the season.

“He’s an outstanding pitcher, and for me to be able to learn from him is outstanding,” Wood said.

Wood also has had an outstanding first half, leading the Major Leagues with 17 quality starts. He just missed No. 18 on Sunday against the Cardinals, leaving the game after 5 2/3 innings. Dale Sveum doesn’t hesitate when asked who the MVP is on the team.

“To have basically every start a quality start but one, and that was iffy itself, he’s definitely our MVP,” Sveum said.

Expect to see Wood hanging with Lee as much as possible in New York.

“We’re from pretty much the same hometown,” Wood said. “He’s five minutes from me. Since he’s been there before, I won’t look out of place.”

He’ll look just fine with all those quality starts. Wood is the first Cubs pitcher to record that many quality starts before the All-Star break since Greg Maddux did so in 1988.

“He can’t pitch any better baseball,” Sveum said of his lefty. “Besides throwing shutouts, you can’t really pitch any better.”

The Cubs have given Wood their blessing so he can pitch on Tuesday at Citi Field if needed. That would be his normal side day.

– Carrie Muskat

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