Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Wood watch

I have to say that it was surprising to see Indians closer Kerry Wood make his 2010 debut Saturday not in the role of closer but as a middle reliever. In 25 years of covering the Indians I have never seen a closer come off the disabled list and not go right back into the closer's role. Wood's first appearance came in the seventh inning of a tie game. Manager Manny Acta later explained that he wanted Wood's first couple of appearances to be in the middle of games, "So we could see if he is ready to close games up here.''

That was an odd explanation. If Wood is deemed physically healthy enough to be activated off the disabled list, wouldn't that, by definition, mean Wood is ready to resume closing games? It's not like it's the middle of September and the Indians are in a heated pennant race, and ever game is critical. It's early May. The Indians are in last place. The stakes aren't exactly huge. Why not just put Wood back into the closer's role, which is what the Indians are paying him $10 million to do? If he struggles in his first few outings, so what? He's the closer. If he's healthy enough to pitch he should probably be closing games.

The way this was handled makes you wonder if maybe Wood didn't want to do any more minor league rehab appearances, and Indians officials wanted him to. The compromise may have been the Indians telling Wood, "Ok, you can come back, but we're not going to use you as the closer until you prove you're ready to do it (by pitching first in middle relief).'' Acta may have used Saturday's appearance by Wood as essentially another rehab outing.

When asked about the situation following the game, Wood, who hadn't pitched in the seventh inning as a reliever in three years, seemed a little brusque with reporters. Hard to tell whether he was just upset with how he pitched, or with how he was used.


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