CLEVELAND -- Guillermo Mota was as surprised as anyone to read reports he didn't pass a physical with the Indians in the midst of the Coco Crisp trade saga last week. "I heard everything," Mota said Thursday. "I was kind of like, 'Whatever. Fine.' I don't think it's the real reason why they didn't get the trade right away. I said, 'No way. I don't have anything to do with it.' I know I'm fine and healthy." Mota is in town trying to ensure he stays healthy this season. When the Indians acquired him from the Red Sox, they made a demand he report to Jacobs Field this week to begin a conditioning program before Spring Training.
"I came here for one purpose," Mota said. "To get better and stronger." Before he broke down with right elbow inflammation last May and right shoulder soreness last September, the 32-year-old Mota had been one of baseball's most reliable relievers. Since the 2003 season, he's thrown the most relief innings in baseball with 268 2/3. The 105 innings he logged with the Dodgers in 2003 rank fourth among single-season inning totals for a reliever in the last six years. But the '05 season with the Marlins was a struggle for Mota. He began the year as Florida's closer, recording two saves in two chances. That was, however, before the elbow inflammation revealed itself in late April. Mota was on the disabled list by May 1 and remained there for most of the month. Mota returned from the injury, but he changed his mechanics to account for the elbow trouble. "I was more afraid to get hurt," he said. "I was pitching in different positions and mechanics. That's why I hurt my shoulder a little bit." For the season, Mota went 2-2 with a 4.70 ERA in 67 innings of work. But he made just one appearance in the second half of September because of the shoulder weakness. Those injuries were of great concern to the Indians, but the team looks at Mota's body of work and sees him as a nice fit to replace Arthur Rhodes and Bob Howry in the eighth-inning setup role. Mota will probably be the emergency closer when Bob Wickman needs a break. "That's what [manager Eric Wedge and general manager Mark Shapiro] told me," Mota said. "They're excited to have me in the end of the game. That's what I look to be -- a setup guy and to have a chance to close some games." Mota, though, will have to stay healthy to do so. "I have some [exercise and throwing] program to take home [to the Dominican Republic] to do it there the next two weeks," he said. "I'll start doing those exercises to get strong." In an effort to remain strong throughout the Major League season, Mota stopped pitching in Winter Ball two years ago. Now he's taking on this pre-Spring Training workout program to further assist his health. "This is a big year for me," he said. "I'm a free agent next year, so I have to be healthy and look forward to a good year." Bere is back: The Indians hired former pitcher Jason Bere earlier this week as a special assistant to baseball operations. Bere pitched parts of 11 seasons in the big leagues, from 1993-2003, posting a career record of 71-65 with a 5.14 ERA. He was an All-Star for the White Sox in 1994. The right-handed Bere was brought to the Indians organization in 2000, but his career was soon hindered by shoulder problems. As a special assistant, he will be in uniform during Spring Training and will be active in the instruction and development at the Major and Minor League levels. Prep players: The Brush, Olmsted Falls, Poland, Canfield, Walsh Jesuit, St. Edwards, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, North Royalton, Hudson, Stow, Mentor and Shaker Heights varsity baseball teams will be competing in the third annual High School Hardball Classic at Jacobs Field this spring. The event, which is presented by Cleveland Indians Charities, will take place May 4-5. Proceeds from the six games held over the two-day period will benefit the numerous education and recreation programs that serve the youth of Northeast Ohio and are funded by CIC. The $5 tickets for the separate sessions of the Hardball Classic can be bought beforehand at the Jacobs Field box office or online. For tickets or more information, visit Indians.com or call (216) 420-HITS. Day-of-game tickets can be bought for $7 at the gate. Come on over: The Tribe and will put single-game tickets to the 2006 season up for grabs Saturday, March 4 at 10 a.m ET. In conjunction with the on-sale date, the Indians will invite their fans to Jacobs Field for a free open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fans will be invited to not only purchase tickets, but also take a tour of the Indians clubhouse, take a few cuts in the indoor batting cages, visit the Kids Zone or check out the press box and Terrace Club. Tickets for the April 7 home opener against the Twins are fading fast. More than 38,000 seats have already been swiped up for the 3:05 p.m. ET game. First sign of spring: The Indians' Spring Training equipment truck will be packed up and begin its trek to Winter Haven, Fla., on Friday.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.