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12/10/08 2:27 PM EST
Lewis doesn't mind passing the torch
Stint as Tribe's closer over if free-agent Wood passes physical
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
LAS VEGAS -- Jensen Lewis has no qualms about losing his closer's job to a guy like Kerry Wood. "Overall, it just makes us a better team," Lewis said in a phone interview Wednesday. "If this thing goes down and Kerry is our guy, it's going to make everybody feel better."
This "thing," as Lewis called it, is expected to go down in the coming days. The 31-year-old Wood, who saved 34 games in 40 opportunities with the Cubs last season, will sign a two-year contract worth a reported $20 million, possibly with an option for a third year, if he passes his impending physical in Cleveland.
Where does that leave the 24-year-old Lewis, who stabilized the Tribe bullpen by saving 13 games in the last two months of '08?
Back in a setup role, and he seems fine with it.
"This is going to make everybody better," Lewis said. "I know it's going to make me work harder, because you see this is what they're looking for in the ninth inning. I want to be as good as he would be. My responsibility does not diminish because Kerry's coming in. He would be our guy, but, at the same time, you have to take a lot of pride in being ready, in case anything would happen. If a bullpen has two closers in there, it's a huge advantage."
Lewis has been working out in Nashville, Tenn., this offseason and mentally preparing as if he'd be the Tribe's closer. Still, he knew the club was actively looking for a more veteran presence for that role.
When word leaked that the Indians had gained momentum in signing Wood, Lewis, who will probably share setup duties with the left-handed Rafael Perez, was excited.
"We're getting an absolute, quality arm," Lewis said. "He was a huge part of that Cubs team. Understanding some of our downfalls last year, this really strengthens and shores up our bullpen. [Wood is] a guy who can really shut down an inning and give us sort of an intimidation factor in the back end, which is good for any team. We'll get the ball to him in as many situations as we can."
Lewis also looks forward to learning from the veteran Wood, who has endured multiple injuries over the years but came back strong when the Cubs moved him to relief in 2007.
"He's very blue-collar in how he approaches the game," Lewis said. "He's an extremely fierce competitor. And if he needs a day off and they want me to close that night, I'll absolutely take that opportunity."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.