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05/18/12 7:20 PM ET

Perez reflects on watching, playing with Wood

CLEVELAND -- Indians closer Chris Perez knows exactly where he was on May 6, 1998. He was 12 years old and parked in front of a television, watching Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood fashion one of the best performances in baseball history.

Wood struck out 20 Houston Astros hitters that afternoon, and Perez saw every pitch. As fate would have it, Wood and Perez wound up teammates in the Indians' bullpen for parts of two seaons in 2009-10. On Friday, Perez spoke highly of Wood in the wake of the news that the Cubs pitcher has decided to retire.

"I always ribbed him about that," Perez said of Wood's 20-strikeout game 14 years ago. "He's been playing since I was 12. I remember it exactly. I got out of school early to get shots. I got my shots, came home and there was only an hour left at school. My dad let me stay home, and WGN was on and Kerry Wood [was pitching].

"Obviously, I didn't know I was in store for 20 strikeouts, but I watched the whole game. It was fun to watch. That's when he made his name. To be in that same bullpen when he was here, it was kind of cool."

Wood was Cleveland's closer in 2009, when Perez joined the Tribe in a mid-season trade with the Cardinals. In 2010, Wood began the season as the Indians' stopper, but Perez moved into that role later in the summer. In the time since, Perez has developed into an All-Star closer for Cleveland.

Perez said he learned a lot from Wood in their time together as teammates.

"[I learned] how to be accountable," Perez said. "He didn't have the best time while he was here. He didn't pitch as good as he wanted to, but he always stood up to me. He put in the same effort every day. It didn't matter if he was going on a good streak or a bad streak.

"It didn't matter how he was pitching or what he did that night. He was always a good teammate, which is important in this game."

Injury deemed rare, but Tomlin improving

CLEVELAND -- The Indians do not have a definitive answer as to what caused Josh Tomlin's right wrist injury. Hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, who has monitored the case, had never seen this particular problem with a pitcher.

All Cleveland cares about now is that Tomlin is improving.

"It's good news all and all," Indians head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said on Friday afternoon. "He'll get back, feel fine and contribute real soon."

Tomlin -- currently on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right wrist -- took a step forward on Friday, when he played catch up to a distance of 75 feet at Progressive Field. Soloff said the Indians starter should be able to progress to throwing off a mound in a bullpen session by early next week, barring any setbacks along the way.

Multiple MRI exams revealed inflammation in the top of Tomlin's wrist, which suffered what the team described as "intersection syndrome." Soloff explained that there is inflammation at the point where two tendons meet in the pitcher's wrist. Tomlin was placed on the 15-day DL on Saturday.

"Intersection syndrome sounds better than going on the DL for a longer period of time," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He was able to play catch right away."

Tomlin, who is 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA in six appearances this season, will increase his throwing distance in 15-foot increments in the coming days, leading up to his return to the mound. The Indians have not indicated whether the right-hander will require a Minor League rehab assignment before rejoining the rotation.

"It's very encouraging," Tomlin said. "I hope to go through the throwing progression and be fine for a start whenever I do so. They haven't said anything [about a Minor League rehab]. It's going to be basically what they think."

As for what caused the injury, the Indians are not sure what to think.

"He's never seen it in a pitcher before," said Soloff, referring to Graham. "In the literature review, there were a couple cases over the past 50 years. So it's not the most common thing in the world for a throwing athlete."

Soloff noted that the injury is more common among competitive rowers and horseback riders. When jokingly reminded that Tomlin is from Texas, Soloff smiled.

"I don't think he has any horses in his backyard in Cleveland," Soloff quipped.

Acta can't help but notice rivals' scores

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Manny Acta feels it is a little early to start monitoring the out-of-town scoreboard. The only problem is that sometimes it is impossibe to avoid seeing what other teams are up to in today's baseball stadiums.

"You just can't stop," Acta said. "I'm looking at Johnny Damon to see where he's positioning himself [in left field], and right behind him there's all the scores. Times have changed. The walls are no longer just green-padded things. You can't stop looking at it."

Entering Friday's Interleague tilt with the Marlins, the Indians were 22-16 and held a four-game lead over the rival Tigers for first place in the American League Central. It is similar to last season, when Cleveland spent most of the year in first before Detroit's late-summer push to the top of the standings.

Acta did say he has enjoyed that watching the scoreboard actually pertains to his ballclub these days. After overseeing rebuilding efforts in both his time as the manager of the Nationals and the Indians, Acta has liked the change of fighting for a playoff spot over the past two seasons.

"In the situations that I have been in," Acta said, "six years working on rebuilding baseball teams, it's been fun for me, in the second half last year and now, that at least I can look at the other scores. In the past, it was about, 'OK, we might lose 95 games, but I need to get this kid better for next year.' It's gratifying that at least you're playing for something, whatever it is."

That said, Acta is not pointing to the Tigers' daily score to fire up his players.

"It's not like I went, 'Hey, they just lost. Let's go! Let's win it!'" said Acta, referring to Thursday's result for Detroit. "I'm thinking about that inside, but I didn't say it outloud. It's kind of too early to be using that as motivation. I'll save that for later."

Smoke signals

• Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner was back in the cleanup spot of the Tribe's lineup on Friday after exiting Thursday's game in the 11th inning due to swelling in his right hand. Hafner was hit on the hand by a pitch in the ninth inning of Thursday's 6-5 victory over the Mariners, but the injury was not deemed serious.

• Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan (back) was out of the lineup on Friday for the fifth game in a row. Hannahan said his back was feeling better and he planned on testing things out with some hitting drills on Friday. Manager Manny Acta was not willing to say Hannahan would be ready to return to the lineup by Saturday.

• Indians left-hander Rafael Perez (on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left lat) has advanced to throwing off a mound as part of his return to the bullpen. Acta indicated that the next step in Perez's throwing program is a simulated game. Cleveland has not announced if the lefty will do a Minor League rehab.

• Minor League outfielder Nick Weglarz, who was designated for assignment on Monday, cleared waivers and has been sent outright to Double-A Akron. Minor League outfielder Jared Goedert, who was hitting .395 in 35 games at Double-A, has been promoted to Triple-A Columbus.

Quote to note

"The encouraging thing is it's soft tissue. I don't know if he has that much of that. He's a pretty strong guy."
-- Indians manager Manny Acta, joking about where Travis Hafner was hit on the right hand by a pitch on Thursday

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.