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Cleveland Indians

Tribe opens exhibition season at new ballpark

By Sheldon Published: February 25, 2009

GOODYEAR, Ariz. Kerry Wood is down, but according to manager Eric Wedge, he is far from out.

The Indians' new closer has been sidelined for a few days with back pain, but he is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Friday.

""Wood has a little bit of a sore back,''Wedge said, after the Tribe opened the exhibition season with a 10-7 loss to the Giants. ""This is normal for him. It has happened in multiple springs. There is absolutely nothing to worry about.''

The Tribe signed Wood, who saved games for the first time with the Cubs last year, to a two-year, free agent contract worth $21 million.

Also sidelined is reliever Joe Smith, also obtained in the offseason. Smith is ailing with a virus infection. It is not known when he will throw again.

MAKING HISTORY --Jeremy Sowers delivered the first-ever pitch at Goodyear Ballpark Wednesday but did not get through his two-inning outing unscathed.

Before settling down in the second, retiring the side in order and striking out one, Sowers yielded one run on three hits in the first inning, giving up a double to Edgar Renteria's plus two singles.

""What hurt me in the first was that 2-and-1 pitch to Renteria, having to throw a pretty predictable pitch,'' Sowers said. ""I threw a lot of first pitch strikes, but I would have like to throw more after that.''

Sowers is among several starters who will battle for one (maybe two) spots in the rotation, but it's far too early to handicap that race.

""I try not to worry about that stuff and just pitch the way I'm capable of pitching,'' Sowers said. ""There are a half dozen guys who are capable of taking that position. That's a good thing, but it can be a little frustrating. One thing I've noticed as a pro: Everybody treats this sort of situation well, especially in this organization.''

Also competing for the No. 5 spot in the rotation are Aaron Laffey, Scott Lewis, David Huff and Zach Jackson. Anthony Reyes is presumed to be the fourth starter if his elbow is sound.

HITTERS' DAY -- The ball was flying high and far in the exhibition opener, with six home runs clearing the outfield wall.

Mark DeRosa, Stephen Head and Michael Aubrey went deep for the Tribe; Travis Ishikaw hit two homers for the Giants, and Nate Schierholtz hit one.

OPENING NUMBERS -- DeRosa hit the first Indians home run at Goodyear Ballpark, a three-run blast in the third inning.

Attendance for the first game ever at the park was 5,664, but paid attendance was 4,181. The discrepancy is due to the club giving 1,500 tickets to personnel at nearby Luke Air Force Base.

Among those viewing the game were owners Larry and Paul Dolan, Larry's son who is president of the club. Larry Dolan was making his first trip to the Goodyear facility.

Temperature for the opener was 77 degrees. Back in Winter Haven, the Florida town the Tribe left after 16 years, the temperature was 74.

BRIEF ABSENCE -- Andy Marte is back. Marte was designated for assignment last week to make room for right-hander Juan Salas on the 40-man roster.

The Indians were unable to make a deal for Marte, who cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Columbus.

RANKING THE KIDS -- Baseball America has ranked four Tribe prospects among its top 100.

Carlos Santana, who walked twice Wednesday's game, is rated the game's No. 26th prospect, just ahead of Matt LaPorta. Nick Weglarz is No. 58 and Adam Miller is ranked 82nd.

The Rangers and Athletics led the rankings with seven players each; the Marlins had six, the Braves and Rays five apiece and the Orioles, White Sox, Brewers, Mets, Phillies, Giants and Mariners joined the Indians with four players each.

IT'S OFFICIAL -- Nine Indians have made the final rosters of their respective World Baseball Classic teams and either have already reported to their teams or will shortly.

Grady Sizemore and Mark DeRosa will play for the United States and will leave for camp in Clearwater, Fla. Sunday. Rafael Perez will pitch in the bullpen for the Dominican Republic; Shin-Soo Choo, playing for South Korea, has left to train in Hawaii.

Five minor leaguers also have made rosters: right-handers Sung-Wei Tseng and Chen-Chang Lee ( Taiwan), infielder Nick Weglarz Canada and catcher Damaso Espino and right-hander Paolo Espino (Panama).

MARCHING ONWARD -- The Indians are home to the Diamondbacks today, beginning at 3 p.m. (EST). Aaron Laffey will start against Dan Haren, with Scott Lewis, Jensen Lewis, Jack Cassel, Tomo Ohka, Kirk Saarloos, Greg Aquino, Ryan Edell and Hector Rondon in the Tribe bullpen.

The game will be televised by SportsTime Ohio and can also be seen on Indians.com.

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