Indians, closer Wood close to deal

Updated: December 12, 2008, 2:41 AM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians only need a positive note from their doctors to make Kerry Wood their closer.

Wood took a physical on Thursday and the club is awaiting the test results before completing a contract with the free-agent right-hander, who has a long history of arm and elbow problems.

The Indians reached a preliminary agreement on a two-year deal worth a reported $20 million with Wood during the winter meetings in Las Vegas. The contract includes a third-year option.

Wood saved 34 games in 2008, his first season closing for the Chicago Cubs. Wood's deal is contingent on him passing the medical examination, and even if he does get a clean bill of health, there is still paperwork to complete so it may be a few days before the Indians announce Wood's signing.

Wood went 5-4 with a 3.26 ERA last season with the Cubs, who converted him from a starter to a reliever in 2007. He has been healthy since moving to the bullpen after several seasons that included trips to the disabled list and operating room.

The Indians are confident Wood will pass the physical, but they are not taking any chances. A few years ago, a trade involving shortstop Omar Vizquel fell through because of a failed medical checkup.

General manager Mark Shapiro's top priority this winter was a closer, and once Francisco Rodriguez - the cream of this year's closer class - went to the New York Mets, the Indians moved quickly to get Wood.

The 31-year-old, who underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in 1999, may not throw as consistently hard as he did earlier in his career, but he can still pump his fastball over 96 mph and will give Cleveland a dominant late-inning presence on the mound for the first time since Jose Mesa was the Indians closer in the 1990s.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press