Indians' Wood slowed by ailing back

Updated: February 25, 2009, 8:41 PM ET
Associated Press

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Cleveland Indians insist their new closer's sore back is nothing. But with Kerry Wood, it always seems to be something.

Wood
Wood

Wood, who had a history of arm injuries with the Chicago Cubs, hasn't thrown off a mound since last weekend because of an aching back and the Indians will rest him for a few more days before he pitches again.

Indians manager Eric Wedge revealed Wood's back soreness for the first time following Cleveland's 10-7 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday.

"He had a little bit of a sore back, which works out fine this time of camp," Wedge said. "We've been slow playing him. It's happened to him in multiple springs, just a little back soreness. We'll back him up for a few days. It's absolutely nothing to be concerned about."

But because of Wood's track record, any ache or pain has to be monitored carefully.

Wood, who agreed to a two-year, $20.5 million contract in December, was on the disabled list 12 times in 11 seasons with the Cubs. His arm issues forced the 31-year-old to convert from starter to reliever in order to salvage his career.

Wedge said Wood played catch on Wednesday. He is tentatively scheduled to throw in the bullpen on Friday.

The hard-throwing Wood, who had 34 saves in his first season closing for the Cubs, impressed the Indians with his velocity and control early in camp. His first bullpen session was a jaw dropper.

"He was lights out and ready to go," Wedge said. "But with 40 some odd days to go before the opener, we want him ready for April 6, not March 6."

Wedge didn't know when Wood would make his first appearance for the Indians in a Cactus League game.

"We don't need to rush that at all," Wedge said. "He'll work his way back into some bullpens maybe later this week. [Indians pitching coach] Carl [Willis] has talked to some people who had him with the Cubs. They say Kerry gets ready pretty quick. We just want to be smart about it and work off of that."

Also, Indians reliever Joe Smith is sidelined with a viral infection. The Indians are not permitted to say much about Smith's sickness because it is not a baseball-related injury. Wedge was vague in discussing the sidearmer's ailment.

"He's just sick," Wedge said. "He'll miss a few days and be back at it."

Smith went 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA in 82 games for the New York Mets last season.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press