Archive for Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Skinner first in last round of interviews for Indians’ job

October 23, 2002

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— Joel Skinner will lead off the last round of interviews in the Cleveland Indians' search for a manager.

Skinner, the club's interim manager for this season's last 76 games after Charlie Manuel was fired, will meet with owner Larry Dolan and general manager Mark Shapiro today.

Eric Wedge, manager of Cleveland's Triple-A Buffalo affiliate the past two seasons, will be in Thursday. Fredi Gonzalez, manager of Atlanta's Triple-A Richmond club, will interview Friday.

Shapiro wants his manager in place within a week after the World Series ends. The new manager probably will get a two-year deal with a club option for a third year, he said.

Shapiro has taken his time with the search.

"What I'm hoping is, whomever we hire as manager, is that this guy is going to be in this job for 10 years for a championship run," he said.

Shapiro's list of candidates was trimmed to three last week when Anaheim pitching coach Bud Black removed his name from consideration so he could concentrate on the World Series. Black was believed to be Shapiro's top choice.

The 41-year-old Skinner would appear to be the favorite.

Skinner was credited by Shapiro for keeping things together during a turbulent 2002 season. Just before Manuel was fired, the Indians scrapped plans of competing for a seventh AL Central title in eight years in favor of rebuilding. And just a few days after Skinner took the job, longtime trainer Jimmy Warfield died.

Skinner, a former major league catcher for the Indians and Yankees, seemed to get more comfortable in the role as the season progressed.

The Indians were constantly shuffling players between Cleveland and the minors during most of his tenure, but the club still went 35-41 under their former third-base coach.

If Skinner has any shortcomings, it could be that he's not the dynamic leader Shapiro envisions guiding his team back into contention.

Wedge, on the other hand, is a little more fiery and energetic.

At 34, he would be the youngest manager in the majors.

Wedge, who played in 39 games as a major leaguer for Boston and Colorado, was hired in 1998 by Shapiro then in charge of minor league operations to manage the Indians' Class A team in Columbus, Ga.

Wedge led Kinston (N.C.) to a first-half title in 1999 and was named Carolina League manager of the year. He managed at Double-A Akron in 2000 before being promoted to Buffalo.

In two seasons, he led the Bisons to a 178-108 record and was honored as The Sporting News' minor league manager of the year.

Shapiro said he's not necessarily looking for a manager with big league experience. He wants a communicator.

"That's the one skill that can transcend," he said. "You can take a guy who has 10 years of experience and someone else who may have far less but is an outstanding communicator and may be a better choice."

Gonzalez, 37, recently completed his first year in the Braves' organization after spending 10 with the Florida Marlins.

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