NEW YORK -- This is the first All-Star Game for left-hander Travis Wood, who couldn't wait to get to New York, be a part of the National League team and enjoy all the festivities.
After starting in a 10-6 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday night at Wrigley Field, he hopped a plane early on Monday morning with his wife, 2 1/2-year-old son, parents and some friends in tow so he wouldn't miss the media events and workout day at Citi Field.
He arrived at 12:30 p.m. ET and scooted quickly from the hotel to the ballpark.
"I'm excited, for sure, for sure. It's going to be an outstanding experience," Wood said during Monday's media session. "I'm the Cubs' representative here, and hopefully, I can just do them some justice. Show them the quality of the Cubs, the type of team and players we have over there."
Because of recent rule, since Wood started on Sunday, he has to have chosen to make himself available to pitch on Tuesday to remain on the active All-Star roster. Tuesday is his day to throw on the side, so he will be able to pitch, but for not much more than a few batters.
In addition, the managers have been instructed to hold back at least one pitcher in the event of an extra-inning game.
Wood could be that guy, but he isn't aware of any limit on the amount of pitches he can throw.
"I really don't know," he said. "I haven't talked to them about it. I just know that I'm available."
No matter when he pitches and for how long, the Midsummer Classic will be special for Wood because he's teammates with his childhood buddy Cliff Lee, the hard-throwing Phillies left-hander who is an All-Star for the fourth time. The two live about five minutes apart near Little Rock, Ark., and they train and hunt together in the offseason.
"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 recently said about Lee. "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."
Like Lee, Wood has had an outstanding first half. Pitching for a Chicago team that is 42-51 and 15 games behind the first-place Cardinals in the NL Central, Wood is 6-6 with a 2.79 ERA in 19 starts.
But way beyond those numbers, he is only the fourth Cubs pitcher -- and the first since Greg Maddux in 1988 -- to record 17 quality starts prior to the All-Star break, although he didn't make it through the sixth inning on Sunday. Those 17 quality starts are the most in the Majors at the break.
"To have basically every start a quality start but [two], he's definitely our MVP," manager Dale Sveum said of Wood, who was obtained from the Reds, along with a pair of Minor Leaguers, for left-handed reliever Sean Marshall on Dec. 23, 2011.
Wood posted his 17th quality start in a 7-2 Interleague win over the Angels on Tuesday.
"[Wood] can't pitch any better baseball," Sveum said. "Besides throwing shutouts, you can't really pitch any better."
Sveum calls Wood a "baseball rat," and he does so with admiration. Wood works hard and plays hard, at times sprinting hard trying to beat a throw from an infielder on a routine grounder. He gets thrown out anyway, which means he didn't need to sprint.
"His mentality just doesn't allow him to trot to first base," Sveum said.
Said Wood: "I can't help it. I don't have it in me -- you hit it, you run hard."
Now he's where he wants to be -- in Queens and, at 26, an All-Star in only his fourth big league season.
"It's been so far, so good," he said. "I've been fortunate enough to have some good games and figure some things out -- my command on some of my pitches. Strike one. This week I just want to take it all in and have the experience. You always think about doing something like this. You always want to be an All-Star and play in the game. I'm just happy that the hard work has paid off."
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less