2/25/2014 5:40 P.M. ET
Healthy Wood eager to reward Tribe's faith
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Blake Wood feels a sense of gratitude over the fact that the Indians took a chance on him two offseasons ago. The hard-throwing right-hander was still rehabbing an elbow injury when Cleveland claimed him off waivers from Kansas City.
Now, Wood is healthy and hoping to win a spot in the Tribe's bullpen.
"I'm as thankful as I could ever be to an organization," Wood said on Tuesday. "Really, at that point, it's like they're not getting me for last year. It was more for this year. That's the way I took it. Hopefully I can repay the favor to them and show them that they made a good investment."
The 28-year-old Wood headed into camp as one among a long list of names in the mix for the two or three openings in the bullpen. Wood, who had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in May 2012, is one of the hardest throwers among the candidates. Last year, Wood averaged 97.2 mph in his two September outings for the Tribe, and he sat at 95.6 mph during 2011 with the Royals.
Wood knows he needs to reduce his walk rate (4.3 walks per nine innings in 108 career games) and Cleveland told him he needed to improve his time to home plate. Controlling the running game has been a weakness for Wood in the past.
"He can do it," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He hasn't done it consistently like in his bullpens, but he can do it. And when he does it, he's throwing 97 or 98 [mph]. It's got the chance to be pretty special."
During the 2011 season, Wood turned in a 3.75 ERA in 55 appearances, which included 62 strikeouts and 32 walks in 69 2/3 innings. While coming back from his surgery last year, the right-hander posted a 2.39 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 18 walks in 26 1/3 innings between stops at four Minor League affiliates for Cleveland, which claimed him on Nov. 2, 2012.
Wood said reaching the big leagues last September was an important step in his comeback.
"More mentally than anything," Wood said. "I knew physically I was fine. ... Just knowing that I had a major injury and I made it back to the big leagues and got in a game, [it wasn't] looming over me now like, 'Can I still pitch in the big leagues? It's been such a long time.' To get it out of the way, it was like, 'All right, I got back up. I pitched in game. Now we can just go from here just like normal.'"
Harang enjoys dynamic of Tribe clubhouse
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Aaron Harang heard plenty of good things about the environment surrounding the Indians before signing a Minor League contract with the team earlier this spring. After more than a week with his new club, the veteran pitcher has enjoyed the experience.
What has impressed Harang the most is that -- for all the fun the players have on a daily basis -- the team gets serious when it is time to go to work.
"I've been having a good time. This is a good clubhouse," Harang said. "You've got veteran guys who try to keep the clubhouse loose. Obviously, you can hear the music bumping in here and everything else in the morning. It's just a very lax clubhouse, but also a very serious one when it comes to going out and making sure that, once you get outside, it's business. It's, 'Let's get it done. Let's do it right.'"
Harang -- one of five candidates for the fifth spot in the Tribe's rotation -- has used the early portion of camp to work on maintaining a consistent release point in his delivery. He praised veteran slugger Jason Giambi, who offered helpful feedback after standing in to face the right-hander during his first live batting practice of the spring.
"Giambi noticed I was flying open," said Harang, who signed with Cleveland on Feb. 15. "So now it's just making sure I'm not flying open at all. From the first BP to the second one, him and [Nick Swisher] both said there was a big difference in the way the ball was coming out. That minor little adjustment worked well."
Last season, the 35-year-old Harang went 5-12 with a 5.40 ERA in 143 1/3 innings between stints with the Mariners and Mets. Cleveland was intrigued by Harang's durability, which is evidenced by the fact that he has logged an average of 179 innings over the past 10 seasons. Prior to the last year, Harang went 24-17 with a 3.62 ERA in 350 1/3 innings across the 2011-12 seasons.
"He's a veteran pitcher that knows how to pitch," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think he feels kind of good about himself. We're looking forward to this. We were really almost ... too honest with him when we talked to him. It's the same with other guys.
"It's like you almost want to paint the picture a little more bleak than it is, because the last thing you want to do is manipulate a guy to get him into camp. What we did promise him, though, is he would get his innings, because that's important. And he will."
Francona hopes to gain on clarity on new rules
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Terry Francona has not drawn up any new drills in the wake of the release of the new home-plate collision rules. The Indians manager wants more clarity on some of the guidelines before addressing the changes during workouts.
On Tuesday, Francona was scheduled to head to Peoria, Ariz., to meet with Major League Baseball officials to go over some elements of the new instant-replay system. The manager said he might also ask a few questions about the experimental Rule 7.13, which was announced on Monday.
"I still have some questions," Francona said. "Not questions of why, but questions of how we're supposed to do it, as I'm sure everybody is [wondering]. I'll try to get those answered as quickly as possible, so we can define it better and tell our catchers what to do.
"I heard a couple explanations today and they were different. So I want to find out for myself, and then I'll feel better about it."
Scheduled to join Francona at the meeting on instant replay were bench coach Brad Mills, general manager Chris Antonetti, assistant general manager Mike Chernoff and director of baseball operations Derek Falvey.
One question on Francona's mind was whether a manager could use an instant-replay challenge for a collision play at the plate. The manager did not feel that was clear in the language of the new rules, which did state in general that umpires could use instant replay to make a ruling.
"That's one of the things that was a little ambiguous," Francona said. "Again, those are questions we have. If you have a challenge left, are you allowed to? Those are things we really want to find out."
Quote to note
"I think last year, we took a big step in the way camp feels. I think we took another one this year. I think how good the environment was last year, now it's just a year more of comfortability with everyone. There's not too many new introductions that need to be made like last year. Guys are settled in and comfortable with each other."
--Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis
• Outfielder Nyjer Morgan, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, will serve as Cleveland's leadoff hitter and center fielder for Wednesday's Cactus League opener against the Reds, airing at 3:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV. Morgan is one of a handful of candidates for a spot on the Indians' bench.
"He can change a game with speed," Francona said. "He played in Japan last year, so I haven't seen him for a while. Some of it's going to be the makeup of our club and what fits. The best thing is seeing guys good. If we can see him good, things usually have a way of working out."
• Indians reliever Bryan Shaw is not scheduled to appear in at least the first three Cactus League games for the club. Shaw is currently slated to throw live batting practice on Wednesday and off the mound in a bullpen session on Friday. Francona said Cleveland is just taking things slow with Shaw.
"[Cody Allen and Shaw] threw a lot last year," Francona said, "and they will throw a lot again this year. We'd like to start them maybe a week later than the other guys. And it also gives us a chance to look at everybody else."
• Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen, is scheduled to throw his first live BP of Spring Training on Wednesday. After a trying 2013 season, during which Pestano dealt with a right elbow injury and a trip to the Minors, the pitcher has taken a more gradual approach to the first two weeks of camp.
• Wednesday's spring opener will tentatively include pitchers Trevor Bauer, followed by Harang, Nick Hagadone, Colt Hynes, T.J. House, C.C. Lee, J.C. Ramirez and Preston Guilmet. On Thursday, starter Justin Masterson will be followed by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Tyler Cloyd, David Aardsma, Josh Outman, Wood and Mike Zagurski. Josh Tomlin is scheduled to start Friday.