Kerry Wood revealed something pretty interesting during a recent interview with David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com, saying that his 20-strikeout game against the Astros on May 6, 1998 on was the first time he felt something in his right elbow.
It all started with that famous final pitch, a wicked swinging strikeout of Derek Bell. Still, the recently-retired right-hander told Kaplan that whatever changed with his elbow that day was “worth it.”
Racking up absurdly high pitch counts as a rookie, Wood went on to make 21 more starts that year before sitting out the final month of the regular season with a sore elbow. He returned in late September to pitch in the NLDS against the Braves, but blew out his elbow the next spring and missed the entire 1999 season following Tommy John surgery. It’s not clear if Wood ever said anything to coaches after initially feeling something in the elbow, but he has said on numerous occasions that he felt it was only a matter of time before it gave out.
While Wood still enjoyed a productive major league career, he didn’t start another game in the major leagues after his age-29 season in 2006. If you are annoyed by your favorite team’s rookie pitcher getting pulled after 90-100 pitches, look no further than Kerry Wood as a cautionary tale.
According to Bill James’ Game Score metric, Wood’s 20-strikeout game ranks No. 1 all-time for a nine-inning game.