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For Hagadone, focus is on moving forward

CLEVELAND -- Nick Hagadone is trying to keep his thoughts focused on what lies ahead. The left-handed pitcher has a growing family to help support and an opportunity to win a job in the Indians' bullpen this spring.

That is where Hagadone's concerns -- his priorities -- rest at the moment. There are certainly lessons to be learned from the past, but what is done is done, and the reliever wants to move forward from the mistakes of last summer.

"We're all just focused on the future," Hagadone said.

The past can't simply be ignored, though.

Hagadone's ill-fated trip from the mound to Cleveland's clubhouse on July 6 last season will continue to hover over him until strong performance consumes the storyline. Until that point, this is a comeback tale. This is a situation where a young pitcher is trying to overcome a regrettable mental lapse that resulted in an injured player and an upset organization.

After a poor showing against the Rays last summer, Hagadone left the field, slammed a door in anger and suffered a self-inflicted fracture in his left wrist. The pitcher underwent surgery and was officially sidelined for the season when Cleveland promptly optioned him to Triple-A Columbus and placed him on the Minor League disqualified list.

Behind the scenes, the Major League Baseball Players Association is still sorting through Cleveland's handling of the situation with the league. Hagadone, who was at Progressive Field this past weekend as part of the team's Tribe Fest, indicated that the sides are still going over the matter.

"I don't really want to go into specifics right now," Hagadone said. "That's still kind of an ongoing process. It's still going on, so that's between the players union and the league right now. Once it's handled, I'll be happy to go through all of it with you. It's kind of out of my hands."

All Hagadone can control right now is his preparation for the coming season.

The 27-year-old reliever and his wife welcomed a baby daughter to their family three months ago, and he spent a portion of this winter pitching for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League. His left wrist -- stabilized with a screw during his surgery in July -- is back to full strength. In fact, Hagadone said he was throwing again and feeling recovered as far back as mid-August.

"It's like new again. No pain," Hagadone said. "I'm not holding back by anything. I'm really just kind of moving forward with it and looking forward to Spring Training."

As things currently stand, the Tribe's bullpen has three virtual locks in closer Chris Perez, setup man Vinnie Pestano and sidearmer Joe Smith. Right-hander Matt Albers, who is out of options, is also a strong bet to have a job come Opening Day. That leaves three spots up for grabs with a crowded field of competitors.

"We feel we have improved on some of our alternatives and brought some interesting guys," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "And we have some other guys who are rebounding from injuries -- a guy like Hagadone. We feel like we have a good balance and we'll continue to look to improve on our options."

Among the bullpen options are Frank Herrmann, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, David Huff, Scott Barnes, Trey Haley and Hagadone. Huff (out of options), Barnes and Hagadone represent the only lefties on the team's 40-man roster. The limited list of lefties could give Hagadone an advantage.

"That's another thing I really do my best not to think about," Hagadone said. "No matter what, if I don't pitch well, I'm not going to be on the team. That's really what I focus on -- throwing well -- and that's it."

Hagadone -- acquired from the Red Sox as part of the July 2009 trade that sent Victor Martinez to Boston -- enjoyed a strong start to his season last year before stumbling to his injury-marred finish. Over his first 17 appearances, the lefty posted a 2.04 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .148 average, striking out 16 in 17 2/3 innings.

In his next 10 outings, however, Hagadone allowed 14 earned runs on 17 hits in 7 2/3 innings, posting a 16.43 ERA and a .447 opponents' average over that span.

"It's important to make adjustments," Hagadone said. "When things don't go well, or you don't do well, it's important to sit down and think about what happened, and then figure out what you need to do to fix it."

That rough stretch culminated in his July 6 appearance, when the lefty entered the game against Tampa Bay with one out, runners on first and second base and the Indians trailing, 6-2. Hagadone allowed a two-run double to Eliot Johnson, and then walked the bases loaded before yielding a sacrifice fly to Ben Zobrist and an RBI single to B.J. Upton. By the time Hagadone escaped, the Rays had pushed their lead to 10-2.

Hagadone reacted in anger after leaving the field, resulting in months of back-and-forth behind the scenes between the MLBPA and MLB. The pitcher was officially reinstated from the disqualified list by the Indians in November.

"We're certainly disappointed with the reaction," Antonetti said in July after Hagadone suffered the wrist injury. "He was certainly very frustrated coming out of the game. We certainly would have wished he would have handled it a little differently."

The Indians have not had any public comment on the ongoing situation, which is now in the hands of the league.

Part of the discussion is believed to revolve around the fact that the Indians optioned Hagadone to Triple-A rather than place him on the Major League disabled list. On the Minor League disqualified list, a player does not receive pay. Players on the big league disabled list, on the other hand, are compensated while sidelined.

"It's definitely something that I think about a lot," said Hagadone, referring to everything that happened last season. "But I try my best to just block it out and just focus on Spring Training. It is a little bit tough, but I think I've done pretty well at just putting it out of my mind, because there's nothing I can do about it right now."

Hagadone can do something about it this spring.

With a strong showing, the lefty can focus on pitching in the big leagues again.

Cleveland Indians, Nick Hagadone