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Published: Thursday, 10/1/2009

Indians unload Wedge

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CLEVELAND - Eric Wedge lost his job and kept his uniform.

Wedge was fired yesterday as manager of the Cleveland Indians, who are in the final days of a terrible season that began with enormous expectations.

Despite being told he would not be back next season, Wedge will manage the last six games of his seventh year with Cleveland, which split a doubleheader yesterday against the Chicago White Sox. The Indians are just one game ahead of last-place Kansas City in the AL Central.

"I still wanted to finish what we started this year," said Wedge, who led the Indians to one playoff appearance since 2003 and went through two rebuilding projects with the midmarket club. He has a 561-569 record with the Indians. "I felt it was the right thing to do. It's been a long run here as managers go. It will be a tough day."

General manager Mark Shapiro said he and owners Larry and Paul Dolan came to a collective decision on Wedge's future "fairly recently" and that Cleveland's coaches were told Tuesday night that they would not be retained for the 2010 season. Wedge is under contract for 2010.

Wedge's firing had been rumored for weeks, and although him still being around makes for an awkward situation, he's glad to have some resolution.

"It's been a big elephant in the room for a while," he said.

After leaving the interview room at Progressive Field, Wedge headed back to his office to begin preparing for his final two home games. It was a strange scene as he walked down the corridor. He was passed by several White Sox players who said hello and seemed surprised to see him still wearing his Chief Wahoo cap.

Shapiro refused to discuss any specifics about why Wedge was dismissed. The Indians were plagued by slow starts throughout the 41-year-old's tenure and this season they couldn't overcome some early injuries and an atrocious bullpen that blew games in April and May.

Cleveland also recently went on an 11-game losing streak and has dropped 20 of its last 25, a tailspin that likely sealed Wedge's fate.

Shapiro said the Indians will begin their search for a new manager soon. Among names that figure to be mentioned are Boston pitching coach John Farrell, former Indians manager Mike Hargrove, former Arizona manager Buck Showalter, and Torey Lovullo, who managed the Indians' Triple-A Columbus franchise.

All-star center fielder Grady Sizemore, who battled an elbow injury before having surgery earlier this month, said replacing Wedge will be difficult.

"Eric had all the qualities you want," Sizemore said.

"You don't want to lose a man like Eric. He's respected by his peers, his players, everybody in the game."

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen expressed sympathy for Wedge.

"As a manager, you don't want to see that happen," Guillen said.

"A lot of things went against him - players being hurt, trades. Somebody had to pay the price. It's something you wish that never happens to you."

Cleveland has a long history of hiring within the organization. Wedge was a three-time manager of the year in Cleveland's system before being promoted.

The last time the Indians went outside was in 1990, when they hired John McNamara.

Two years ago, Cleveland was one win away from a World Series trip.

The Indians fell to 81-81 in 2008, but were expected to bounce back and contend this season.

However, a slow start snowballed and by midseason the club, which is projected to lose at least $16 million this season, traded defending Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and all-star catcher Victor Martinez to begin rebuilding again.

Those moves triggered outrage among Cleveland's fans and led to questions about why the team would deal its best players a full season before they were eligible for free agency.

Paul Dolan acknowledged that Wedge wasn't solely responsible for the team's slide.

"The managers often become the fall guy for what is an organizational failure, that's the tried and true way of baseball," he said.



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