By Stephanie Storm
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: After the stunning way in which Ubaldo Jimenez turned his season — and likely his career — around in the second half of the season, the Indians have made it clear they’d like to bring back the veteran right-hander for another year.
Jimenez, who was arguably the best starting pitcher in the American League after the All-Star break, is no longer likely to exercise his side of a mutual $8 million option for 2014.
“We had a great visit with Ubaldo at the end of the year,” General Manager Chris Antonetti said. “He was very complimentary of [manager Terry Francona] and [pitching coach] Mickey Callaway and how much he valued his time here. We certainly would be happy to have him back.”
Coaching musical chairs
Francona announced a new coaching alignment for next season, assuming his entire coaching staff returns. Third base coach Brad Mills will move into the dugout as bench coach, Sandy Alomar will move from the bench to first base coach and Mike Sarbaugh will shift from first base over to third base coach.
He said his relationship with Mills, who was his bench coach with the Boston Red Sox, is the reason for the changes.
Francona said the new alignment was talked about before last season, but he didn’t want Alomar’s move to look like a demotion. Alomar’s name has been linked to several managerial jobs the past few years and might be again this offseason.
Neither Antonetti nor Francona would admit to worrying much about the club’s closing situation heading into next season, even though Chris Perez was removed from his ninth-inning role during the final four games of the regular season.
Asked how much Perez’s struggles might complicate his situation with the team going into the offseason, Antonetti shrugged off any concern.
“Not that much,” he said. “Chris has been a very effective closer for us and one of the most successful closers we’ve had here. We have a lot of decisions to make, not just with him.”
Where have you gone?
Another potential bullpen issue heading into next season has to do with former set-up man Vinnie Pestano, who spent a portion of the season working on his mechanics in the minors and was not included on the 25-man roster for the wild-card game.
“I think Vinnie has more determination than ever to get back to being the pitcher he was so long for us,” Antonetti said. “We haven’t lost sight of the contributions that he’s made to the organization for the better part of three seasons. We know what’s in there. I have no doubt Vinnie’s going to work his tail off during the offseason and come into spring training with the goal of reasserting himself as a dominant back-end reliever.”
Show me the money
The Indians who are arbitration eligible this offseason are Perez, starting pitchers Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Frank Herrmann, left fielder Michael Brantley, reserve outfielder Drew Stubbs, reserve catcher Lou Marson and relievers Pestano, Marc Rzepczynski and Blake Wood.
Just a peek
Asked if he’d had time to catch any of the other postseason games, especially the surprising play of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Francona admitted he’s purposely kept a bit of distance.
“I’ve been watching bits and pieces of all the games, but I can’t sit still,” he said. “Part of you is a little jealous.”
Winter ball anyone?
The Indians have a handful of players in mind that they’d like to send to play winter ball this offseason, but the agreement that had been in place expired and the two sides are still in midst of negotiations.
“Right now it’s a bit of a tenuous situation because major league baseball and the winter leagues haven’t agreed on the parameters for 40-man roster participation in winter ball,” Antonetti said. “So we have to wait a little bit as we work through that. But I anticipate there will be some guys who play winter ball at some point.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com.