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Healthy Wood eager to reward Tribe's faith


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.'"

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.

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