By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
AP/Emark Duncan [16K]
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Indians turned a rare
double play: They hired a new manager and kept their old
Eric Wedge was officially introduced as Cleveland's
manager on Tuesday, making him the youngest in the
majors at 34 after two seasons leading the Indians' top
Wedge, a former big league catcher with a no-nonsense
style of managing, was picked by general manager Mark
Shapiro over Joel Skinner, who served as Cleveland's
interim manager last season after Charlie Manuel was
fired July 11.
Skinner, though, is coming back despite finishing as a
close runner-up. At Wedge's request, Skinner will resume
his duties as third-base coach — his position before
``Skins and I are friends,'' Wedge said. ``I didn't have
to urge him to stay. I have the utmost respect for Joel.
I'm just happy to have him.''
Skinner led the Indians to a 35-41 mark during a
turbulent second half this season. He was disappointed
at not getting the job, but he wanted to remain with the
club he's been with as a player, coach and manager.
``Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose,'' Skinner
said. ``But I don't think anybody is a loser here. I'm
glad I got the opportunity. I think I filled a gigantic
hole, and I feel proud about it. The one thing I'm not
going to have is a pity party.''
Shapiro refused to say what separated the two
``Eric was just the right guy,'' said Shapiro, whose
first choice was Anaheim pitching coach Bud Black. ``I
knew that and felt strongly about it.''
The Indians signed Wedge to a two-year contract, with
the club holding options for 2005 and 2006.
Shapiro wouldn't divulge financial terms but said the
deal was similar to the contract Ron Gardenhire got from
Minnesota, a two-year package reportedly worth about $1
Wedge managed Cleveland's Triple-A team in Buffalo the
past two seasons. He led the Bisons to a 178-108 record
and was selected minor league manager of the year by The
Sporting News after this season.
Upstate New York was the final stop on an odyssey
through the Indians' farm system that began in 1998 when
Shapiro made Wedge a manager of the team's Class A
Columbus (Ga.) affiliate.
Shapiro identified Wedge as a leader the first time he
``He is a difference maker,'' Shapiro said. ``He has a
proven track record of developing young players and
getting the best out of them.''
Along the way, Wedge also developed into an aggressive,
take charge manager who isn't afraid to get into the
face of one of his players or go nose-to-nose with an
``I'm an aggressive person by nature,'' said Wedge, who
added that he's toned his act down in recent years.
``I'll feel the moment, and if I need a softer touch, I
can do that. But I'm always going to stand up for my
Wedge didn't dismiss comparisons of himself to the
sometimes temperamental Lou Piniella.
``I'm flattered with that comparison,'' Wedge said.
Wedge is the majors' youngest manager — by far.
Pittsburgh's Lloyd McClendon, who is 43, is the second
youngest. He'll also be younger than two of his top
players: Ellis Burks (38) and Omar Vizquel (35).
This will be a reunion of sorts for Wedge and Burks.
They were teammates in Boston and Colorado.
Wedge doesn't take any special pride in being the
majors' youngest manager, and said it won't affect how
he does his job.
``Age has never been a factor for me,'' he said.
``Respect has nothing to do with age. It's something you
earn. I've always felt well beyond my years as far as
So has Shapiro, who at 35, is just one year older than
``He transcends his age,'' Shapiro said.
Wedge is the club's second youngest behind Hall of Famer
Lou Boudreau, who was 24 when he became the club's
player-manager in 1942. Wedge, who will turn 35 on Jan.
27, also will be the youngest manager to make his big
league debut since Bobby Valentine with Texas in 1985.
The Indians, who finished 77-85, began rebuilding midway
through last season by trading some veterans and
finished last season with 19 rookies on their roster.
Wedge, who managed many of them on their way to
Cleveland, said his only goal next season is to get the
most out of his players.
``I'm not going to put any expectations on this ballclub,''
he said. ``I'm not going to set a timetable. We're going
to go out and play and we're going to be excited doing
it. There is a format for success here and I'm excited
to lead it.''