CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians’ recent offensive slump has cost Jon Nunnally his job as hitting coach.
Nunnally has been replaced by Bruce Fields, former Toledo Mud Hens manager.
Fields had a 147-142 record in two seasons with the Hens, guiding them to the International League West Division title in 2002.
The move did not sit well with outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, whose season-long struggles likely were a big part of management’s decision.
“I don’t know what’s going on around here,” said Choo, a .297 career hitter batting only .237.
“We’re still in first place,” Choo added. “Why is he fired? I am very disappointed because he helped me a lot. Not just me, everybody on the team.”
The Indians were shut out six times in 18 games from May 27 to June 14. They went 5-13, twice winning by 1-0 scores. In 13 games from June 2-13, they were 7 for 75 (.093) with runners in scoring position.
“We’ve been scuffling for a while and I felt like we need a new voice,” manager Manny Acta said. “Jon worked hard and I want to thank him, but we are confident Bruce, who is very familiar with our current players, will continue the work he has done developing hitters at every level.”
Fields is in his sixth year in the organization, serving as minor league hitting instructor since 2007 following one season as a hitting coach in Triple-A. He was the Detroit Tigers’ hitting coach from 2003-05. He played in the majors for Detroit in 1986 and Seattle in 1988-89.
“There is no magic answer,” general manager Chris Antonetti said. “It’s still the same group of hitters [that produced early], and a season is full of peaks and valleys. We hope Bruce can give us a better chance collectively. We think we have hitters who can do better.”
Along with Choo, three-time all-star Grady Sizemore is hitting .243, Matt LaPorta .242, and Carlos Santana just .222. LaPorta and Santana were acquired in two big trades as minor leaguers in 2009, and both credited Nunnally with helping them at Triple-A Columbus before arriving in Cleveland.
Asdrubal Cabrera said Nunnally helped him get off to a hot start. The shortstop hit .301 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs in his first 69 games this year. In 387 career games entering 2011, he had 18 homers.
“He showed me a couple things, gave me some tips,” Cabrera said. “He was very helpful.”
Nunnally replaced Derek Shelton as Cleveland’s hitting coach a year ago. Antonetti said he was open to discussing a possible position in the organization with Nunnally at the end of the season.
“We still believe Jon has a lot to offer,” Antonetti said. “He did a lot of good things for us.”