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03/31/09 4:00 PM ET

Tribe signs Lara to Minor League deal

Reliever continues comeback after near-fatal car crash

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Just 16 months after a car accident nearly took his life, Juan Lara is going to try to take the mound.

The Indians have signed Lara to a Minor League contract, and he reported to the Tribe's Player Development Complex on Tuesday to begin a return-to-throw program.

Lara, 28, was in an accident in his native Dominican Republic after a Winter League game in November 2007. A motorcycle traveling at a high speed slammed into the driver's side of Lara's SUV, which was stopped at an intersection. The driver of the motorcycle and his passenger died immediately upon impact, and Lara suffered a spinal fracture, an arm fracture, broken ribs, a punctured lung and severe brain trauma. He underwent multiple surgeries over the course of his recovery and has been medically cleared to pitch again.

"With the procedures he's been through," farm director Ross Atkins said, "it is unreal that he's been cleared."

At the time of the accident, the Indians were merely hoping Lara could recover enough to maintain a healthy life. So the news that he's going to try to revive his career is certainly surprising.

Of course, the Indians have no clear idea of what they can expect out of Lara, whose throwing program will take place at the complex over the next two months. While doctors say his spine can tolerate the torque it takes to pitch, it remains to be seen how his muscles and his core will handle the workload.

"We're still getting our hands around this," Atkins said. "I'll know more in three or four days. He's picked up a baseball [to play catch], but obviously, he gets quickly fatigued."

Lara, a left-handed reliever, made one appearance for the Indians in 2007 and nine in '06. He owns a career Minor League record of 28-31 with a 3.94 ERA in 257 appearances, including 59 starts.

Signed by the Indians out of their Dominican academy in 1999, Lara was one of the more promising relief arms in the club's system at the time of the accident.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.