Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 5/18/12
MILWAUKEE Aramis Ramirez has seen all sides of Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood. As an up-and-coming slugger in Pittsburgh, Ramirez faced Wood 29 times in a Pirates uniform, striking out as many times (seven) as he got a hit with Wood on the mound. He knew full well then of Wood's reputation -- the young pitcher who struck out 20 batters in just his fifth career start. As a Chicago Cub for 7-12 seasons, the now-Milwaukee Brewers third baseman became good friends with Wood as the pitcher transitioned to the bullpen and injuries began to derail his once-promising career. Ramirez had a front-row seat as Wood's undeniable potential fell victim to health problems. Still, Wood remained one of "the great guys" in the game, Ramirez said, despite struggling to get and stay on the field. And on Friday, from his corner locker in the Brewers' clubhouse, Ramirez watched a television in the center of the room as his friend and former teammate struck out White Sox outfield Dayan Viciedo on three pitches to end his tumultuous career -- a poetically fitting end for the long-time fireballer. Wood walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the crowd at Wrigley Field, the place he had called home for nearly his entire career, and hugged his son after leaving. Ramirez watched intently in the clubhouse while all of this unfolded. It was an emotional moment for him -- he said before Friday night's Brewers game -- watching a friend walk off the mound for the last time. "If you're going to go out, to go out like that . . . it was great," Ramirez said. "It was emotional just to watch him. He was my teammate for a while in Chicago -- seven, eight years. You can't find a better guy than Kerry Wood." And according to Ramirez, you can't find many other pitchers better than the healthy Wood he knew in his first few seasons in Chicago. This season, Wood had appeared in just 8-13 innings with an 8.64 ERA for the Cubs. "When he was healthy, he was one of the toughest pitchers in the game, and the numbers back that up," Ramirez said. "He could've done a lot more things if he would've stayed healthy. He was on the DL a lot, and that's one of the reasons why he's going home right now. . . . Even though he threw the ball well today, he's not feeling good. His arm is bothering him." Ramirez will remember Wood as that dominating pitcher with the nearly untouchable strikeout rate. Today, though, as he walked off the mound at Wrigley Field, it was hard for anyone -- especially those like Ramirez, who knew him best - not to wonder what could have been. Follow Ryan Kartje on Twitter.
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