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Published: Wednesday, 12/10/2008

Indians near deal with Wood


CLEVELAND The Cleveland Indians are close to getting their closer.

The club has offered free agent Kerry Wood, the former Chicago Cubs starter-turned-reliever, a two-year contract, a personfamiliar with the deal told the AP yesterday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the sides are still working through details at the winter meetings in Las Vegas.

Wood, who has had numerous injury problems in the past, needs to pass a physical before the deal can be completed.

Cleveland went to the meetings hoping to land a closer and did not figure to be in the market for Francisco Rodriguez, who has reached a three-year, $37 million deal with the New York Mets, two people familiar with those talks told the AP. The club instead targeted Wood, who had 34 saves last season for Chicago.

If the deal gets completed, the Indians would be able to move on to other offseason priorities such as finding another starting pitcher or possibly a middle infielder.

Wood, though, would fill their most pressing need. Last season, closer Joe Borowski s early season problems he blew four saves in his first 10 tries contributed to the Indians slide. After getting to the ALCS in 2007, Cleveland finished a disappointing 81-81 with much of the blame tagged to its shaky bullpen.

Borowski, who led the AL with 45 saves in 2007, was released in July and the Indians used several pitchers in the closing role, including right-hander Jensen Lewis, who saved 13 games down the stretch. Lewis would move back into a late-inning setup spot if Wood is signed.

Though Wood doesn t throw as hard as he once did, the 30-year-old can still be an intimidating figure on the mound, something the Indians haven t had in recent years. Both Borowski and Bob Wickman relied on off-speed pitches to fool hitters. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Wood still goes to his fastball when he needs an out.

The only worry about Wood is his durability. He has had a long history of injuries and surgeries, which forced the Cubs to move him from their starting rotation to the bullpen in 2007, a switch Wood had to accept to prolong his career.

Wood, who won a career-high 14 games for the Cubs in 2003, lives in Arizona during the offseason and could stay there to train since the Indians recently opened a year-round facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

The Indians have sold right-hander Tom Mastny s contract to Yokohama of the Japanese Central League.

Mastny split last season between the Indians and Triple-A Buffalo.

With Cleveland, Mastny went 2-2 with a 10.80 ERA in 14 games. He was 2-2 with a 1.78 ERA in 28 games for the Bisons.

The 27-year-old went 7-2 for the Indians in 2007, his first full season in the majors.

In 2006, he recorded five saves in the closer s role over the final six weeks after beginning that season at Double-A Akron.

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