The Indians are hit by their first major injury of the 2010 season, Closer Kerry Wood heads to the disabled list with a strained back. Anthony Castrovince on Indians.com and ESPN are reporting that Kerry Wood is set to miss at least 2 months of action. Wood only barely got going this Spring before being shut down with back issues and it is finally coming to the surface just how serious the back pain is for him. It is being classified as a mild strain so in theory the injury could be worse but it still leaves the team with a hole to fill in the bullpen. Jason Grilli would have probably been a candidate to help fill the void but he got hurt before the first game of Spring Training and is gone for the year. So what does the loss of Wood mean for the Indians for the first 2 months of the season (at least) as we know that Kerry Woods past history of injuries is not reassuring. Castrovince suggested in an article on Indians.com that this would give Chris Perez the opportunity to strut his stuff in the Closer role. Perez is seen by man to be the Indians Closer of the future.
Perez had a rough start last year with the Tribe after being picked up in the Mark DeRosa trade, but settled down into the Setup role pretty quickly and looked strong towards the end of the season. He has looked good thus far in Spring Training and should get many opportunities to close games out if the Indians offense keeps chugging when the season starts. Of course, somewhat of a pre-requisite for opportunities to close games is good starting pitching, which is very well documented as one of the biggest areas of concern for the Indians. Thus far it has not been too bad, but granted, that has been against some weaker competition against them. Mitch Talbot is looking very good in the battle for 4 and 5 in the rotation, and it looks like the other spot could be Aaron Laffey’s to lose as Huff has been arguably the worst of the three so far.
What if Perez doesn’t quite work out of if Wood loses more than just 2 months? Well there are plenty of names the Indians could turn to if Chris Perez struggles in assuming the Closer role. Rafael Perez could be a shot, Jensen Lewis has been good in the role in the past and until his more recent struggles was considered to be the guy in the future. Perez has the power arm and big breaking stuff you love to see a closer have, but his control was a little bit rough last year. This also opens up a spot in the Indians bullpen for the time being, which is very unclear who could fill the void. The front runner in my mind, based off of Spring Training performance is Saul Rivera. He has been sturdy thus far, showing good control and not letting runners get on base. Jeremy Sowers might also be up for that rotation spot, he did look pretty good in his first start of the Spring the other day, but with his slower pace of pitching and lower velocity does not translate to the bullpen. He could be an affective long man or spot starter, if the team does not try and push him through waivers or seek a trade. Jess Todd, who some thought was guaranteed a bullpen spot has really struggled, so I would not be surprised if the Tribe sends to him AAA to start the year and let Saul Rivera and other veterans take a shot at that spot.
So this is what we all expected when Wood signed with the Tribe, injuries have always been the story of his career, and this is his first in his time with the team. Hopefully it does not get prolonged, because his $10 Million contract does not get smaller with him on the DL, and it becomes that much harder to swallow.