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04/16/10 7:05 PM ET

Branyan, Wood closer to returns

First baseman's rehab assignment moved to Double-A

CLEVELAND -- Manager Manny Acta said Friday that first baseman Russell Branyan is "very close" to getting activated off the disabled list.

But first, Branyan must prove he and his lower back can tolerate playing nine innings at his position and playing consecutive days. Branyan's rehab assignment was transferred to Double-A Akron, where he was scheduled to play nine innings at first base on Friday night.

Closer Kerry Wood (right back muscle strain) is also nearing a return from the DL. He is scheduled to throw his third bullpen session of the week Saturday, and Acta said Wood might throw a simulated game early next week.

In-season PFP new focus for Tribe

CLEVELAND -- Rain eliminated pitchers' fielding practice from the Indians' pregame schedule Friday. But the fact that such a drill was even on the schedule in the first place was a marked departure from the last regime at the helm.

Manager Manny Acta seemed surprised when a reporter asked about the PFP drill. To him, it should be a standard in-season routine, especially on a young team like this one. Former manager Eric Wedge, on the other hand, did not schedule PFPs in-season. They were conducted every morning during Spring Training but never in the season proper.

"It only takes 10 minutes," Acta said. "Baseball is about repetition. You can't wait until July when you have a comebacker and then throw it away because you haven't done [the fielding drills] since Arizona. It's the same thing with cutoff and relay [drills]. These guys are young. They have to work on their fundamentals."

Acta stressed the importance of defense throughout spring camp. Entering Friday, the Indians ranked second in the AL in fielding percentage with a .991 mark and just three errors total. The Twins (.997, one error) were first.

Efficient Huff speeds up his game

CLEVELAND -- In his complete-game victory over the Rangers on Thursday, Indians left-hander David Huff never threw more than 16 pitches in a single inning and had five innings of exactly 12 pitches.

That's a great way to speed up a ballgame, and that's a big reason why the Tribe's 3-2 win happened in just two hours, three minutes.

But Huff has other ways of speeding up his routine this season. He was encouraged by pitching coach Tim Belcher to grab his glove and hat as soon as it's clear the last out of the Indians' half of an inning is about to be made and hustle out to his position as quickly as possible.

"It keeps the tempo up," Huff said. "If the umpire sees that, you might get that call you want later in the game."

Huff's complete game was the first of his young career and the first by a Tribe pitcher with 25 or fewer career games since Jeremy Sowers threw one on July 28, 2006, against the Mariners.

Fan struck by LaPorta's bat

CLEVELAND -- A fan sitting on the third-base side at Progressive Field was struck in the head by a bat that slipped out of Matt LaPorta's hands in the second inning of Friday's game against the White Sox.

After receiving medical attention, the fan left the section holding a towel near his eye. He received an ovation from the crowd.

Worth noting

Umpires' room attendant Jack Efta logs the time of game for every game played at Progressive Field and reported that Derryl Cousins on Thursday became the first umpire to complete the "hat trick" of working three games that lasted less than two hours, 20 minutes. The two other games were in 2003 and 2004, Efta reported. ... Cavs fans attending Saturday's playoff game against the Bulls can use their stub to gain entry to Progressive Field for the Tribe's game against the White Sox for $5, following the conclusion of the NBA game. ... Saturday's game will be broadcast on WMMS 100.7 FM instead of WTAM 1100 because of the conflict with the Cavs' schedule. ... The Indians entered Friday with the fifth-best starters' ERA (3.79) in the American League.

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