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Following game plan helping Wood improve

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CINCINNATI -- Travis Wood was among the Cubs players taking early batting practice Friday at Great American Ball Park. The pitcher does like to hit, and he'll get his chance Saturday when he faces his former team, the Reds, for the second time this season.

"I think Travis looks forward to hitting anywhere," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the left-hander, who is 5-for-19 this season with a double and home run. "He was out for early [batting practice], hitting home run after home run."

Wood appeared in 39 games over two seasons with the Reds in 2010 and '11, before he was traded to the Cubs on Dec. 23, 2011, for Sean Marshall in a four-player deal.

Last season, Wood was 6-13 with a 4.27 ERA in 26 starts with the Cubs. This season, he's 4-2 with a 2.24 ERA. What's the difference?

"He's not doing anything different than last year, except maybe fine-tuning some things," Sveum said. "He's able to pitch to his arm side, back door his cutter. He's always been able to pitch inside to right-handed hitters."

What may be helping Wood the most is he's following the game plan.

"He sits down with [coach Mike] Borzello and Borzello says, 'Don't ever throw this pitch,' and before, [Wood] might throw the pitch because we know how Travis is -- he's very competitive," Sveum said. "Before he could be, 'I can throw this changeup to this guy,' and that's the last pitch you ever want to throw to him."

So, has Wood matured?

"You get tired of getting beat up, too," Sveum said. "There's a time where something has to give."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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