It remains to be seen whether the Indians’ latest moves indicate that a fundamental change is taking place in the way the franchise operates, but it has been out with the old and in with the new since the end of the season.
The Tribe rolled out its roster of coaches Wednesday, and the only holdover among the group was fan-favorite Sandy Alomar, former manager Manny Acta’s bench coach in 2012. Alomar will perform the same function for new skipper Terry Francona.
Additionally, two fixtures on the team probably are gone forever, as the team declined to exercise 2013 options on designated hitter Travis Hafner and starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez. These moves were expected, as was keeping starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who has a $5.75 million option for next season.
The coaching staff is a blend of men promoted from within and veteran big-league operatives, some of whom have close ties to Francona.
As is usually the case, the selections probably are a result of a collaborative effort between Francona and General Manager Chris Antonetti, but there is evidence that Francona had the strongest influence on the choices. Even the news release announcing the hirings noted that Francona “appointed” the new staff. Maybe the wording is coincidental, but it is not the norm.
Hiring Francona itself is a break from the way the Indians usually do business. They are not in the habit of seeking out high-profile, high-salaried field bosses.
Alomar, 46, was Francona’s rival for the manager’s job and was asked immediately by the new skipper to stay on as bench coach. There is still a chance that teams seeking a manager will come looking for the former All-Star catcher, but apparently he has not fielded any such calls lately.
“You can’t go to the moon without a rocket,” Alomar said when asked whether he had been contacted recently. “I don’t sit by the phone waiting. If someone wants to interview me for a job, they can find me; they can call the Cleveland Indians.”
Working for Francona doesn’t seem to be a problem for Alomar. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“To me, being on Terry’s staff is an honor,” he said. “He brings a lot to the table, and I expect to learn a lot from him.”
The rest of the staff includes Mickey Callaway, pitching coach; Ty Van Burkleo, hitting coach; Brad Mills, third-base coach; Mike Sarbaugh, first-base coach, and Kevin Cash, bullpen coach.
Mills, 55, and Cash, 34, have ties to Francona.
Mills managed the Houston Astros from 2010 until midway through last season, when he was let go. Mills was on Francona’s Boston Red Sox staff from 2004-09 and before that, when Francona managed the Philadelphia Phillies from 1997 through 2000. Mills is the father of Beau Mills, who was a No. 1 draft choice of the Indians but is no longer with the organization.
“Because of my relationship with Brad, he’ll tell me when I’m wrong,” Francona said.
Cash was the Toronto Blue Jays’ major-league advance scout last year after retiring as a player in 2011. He spent parts of eight seasons in the big leagues, one of his stops being with the Red Sox, where he played for Francona in 2007 and 2008 and caught all 30 of knuckleball specialist Tim Wakefield’s starts. He also played for Mills on the Astros two years ago.
Callaway and Sarbaugh come from the Tribe’s minor-league system.
Over the past season, Callaway, 37, was the Indians’ minor-league pitching coordinator after spending one season each as the pitching coach at Class-A Kinston and Class-A Lake County. He has limited major-league experience with the Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels from 1999-2004.
“Mickey doesn’t have major-league experience [as a coach], but neither did I at one time,” Francona said. “I think he’ll be a star.”
Sarbaugh, 45, has been with the Indians organization since 1990 as a minor-league player, coach and manager and just concluded a three-year stint as manager of Columbus, the Tribe’s Triple-A affiliate.
Van Burkleo, 50, was the Astros’ interim hitting coach for the last seven weeks of the 2012 season and for four years was either a bench coach or hitting coach with the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners.
Inasmuch as the Indians are in need of starting pitchers, it made sense to exercise the option on Jimenez, despite the fact he was one of the poorest performing pitchers in the American League, posting a 9-17 record and 5.40 ERA.
“What we’re all looking for is consistency with Ubaldo,” Antonetti said, adding that Callaway would travel to the Dominican Republic to check out what Jimenez is doing in the off season.
There was no chance the Tribe would pick up the $13 million option on Hafner or the $6 million option on Hernandez, but Antonetti said there was a possibility that either or both might be-resigned at lesser salaries.
Don’t count on it.
Outfielder Vinny Rottino and starter Kevin Slowey have been outrighted to Columbus. In addition, left-hander Scott Maine was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays, leaving the 40-man roster at 34.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.