Indians look within to fill coaching vacancies

Indians look within to fill coaching vacancies

CLEVELAND -- By promoting Scott Radinsky to the role of pitching coach, the Indians might have made baseball history. It seems quite possible that he is the first person in that role to also be the lead singer of a punk rock band.

"That's an accomplishment right there," Indians reliever Joe Smith said with a laugh. "You don't see that very often."

Cleveland made the move official on Friday, when the Tribe unveiled the makeup of manager Manny Acta's coaching staff for the 2012 season. Radinsky shifted out of the bullpen coach role and into the lead position. Dave Miller was hired as Radinsky's replacement in the 'pen and Tom Wiedenbauer will take over as the first-base coach.

It was a trio of internal hires that were made with familiarity serving as a primary emphasis. Radinsky knows Cleveland's pitching staff very well after working closely with former pitching coach Tim Belcher for the past two years. Miller and Wiedenbauer were both pulled from the Indians' player development system.

The three coaches are the ones Acta wanted.

"Just about everybody appreciates being promoted from within," said Acta, who never reached the point of considering candidates from outside the organization. "We felt that we needed to talk to those guys first, interview those guys. And when we went through the process, we felt they were the appropriate guys.

"We really didn't want to bring in people who weren't as familiar with our players as these guys were."

That was expecially important for Cleveland's still-developing pitching staff, which was tied for the youngest group in baseball with an average age of 26.4 last season. At the end of the year, Belcher decided to step down from the pitching-coach position in favor of a role in baseball operations that will allow for more time with his family.

Over the past two years, Belcher worked closely with Radinsky, forming a coaching tandem that was universally respected and liked by the pitchers. Radinsky, 43, was not limited to working with relievers, either. He also assisted with the rotation, which should make it easier to take on the long list of duties reserved for a pitching coach.

"That was one thing about Belch that I respected a ton," said Radinsky, who worked as a pitching coach in the Indians' farm system prior to last year. "When I stepped into the bullpen role a couple of years ago, he didn't really ask me to break stride. I was able to continue on with what I was doing and really be a pitching coach and have a voice.

"I didn't step over his shoes. If I had a suggestion, I'd say it to him and he'd approach it how he saw fit. But I had freedom to have interaction and have a voice and speak with all 12 pitchers."

Radinsky's voice also fronts the punk band "Pulley," but that is a role that is second to the one he fills for the Indians.

Last season, the Indians' bullpen posted a 3.71 ERA, which ranked fifth in the American League. Cleveland's overall staff ERA of 4.23 was also an improvement over the team's showing in 2010. The performance by the pitchers was a large reason for the Tribe's 11-win jump in the win column this year.

Smith, who had a 2.01 ERA in a breakout performance in 2011, agreed that Radinsky played a huge role in the team's success.

"Rad, even though he was in the bullpen with us," Smith said, "he had a lot to do with the starters' routines and was out there with Belcher watching them throw their bullpens and stuff like that. So I know Rad has a good feel of each starter and what their routines are and he can kind of transition that way pretty easily."

The hiring of Wiedenbauer, who worked as the Indians' Minor League field coordinator last season, fills Acta's wish to have a first-base coach who can double as a baserunning and outfield instructor. The first-base coaching job was vacated when Sandy Alomar Jr. was promoted to the role of bench coach at the end of the year.

Former bench coach Tim Tolman resigned due to health concerns.

Wiedenbauer has filled a variety of roles throughout his career, but baserunning and outfield instruction has been a specialty of his during his 36 years in baseball, including more than three decades spent in the Astros' organization. Wiedenbauer actually served as Acta's manager at Double-A in 1989.

"I played for him, worked with him, worked under him," Acta said. "He's one of the best outfield and baserunning instructors I've been around."

Acta said this season's injuries to outfielders Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore and Michael Brantley -- three above-average baserunners -- exposed some of the club's youngsters on the basepaths. With so many inexperienced players filling in, Acta said it became clear that continuing to coach baserunning and outfield fundamentals in the Majors was important.

"At times, it wasn't those kids' fault," Acta said. "They were rushed into it. But we felt as a staff we were a little bit short-handed when it came to the outfield and the baserunning, and that's something we need to get better at. I think Wiedey is going to make an impact on our staff."

Beyond the Major League hirings, the Indians also announced on Friday that they named Alan Zinter (formerly a hitting coach in the D-backs' system) the team's new Minor League hitting coordinator. That role was previously held by Bruce Fields, who took over as Cleveland's big league hitting coach midway through this past season.

The Indians are still in the process of hiring a new Minor League field coordinator and pitching coordinator to replace Wiedenbauer and Miller, respectively.

Having Radinsky as the pitching coach was a move that had Smith excited.

"I love it," Smith said. "Losing Tim Belcher, I think it would've been hard to bring in somebody new that doesn't know us as well, especially as well as Rad knows us. Rad's been at the big league level the last two years with the same guys, and before that he was coming up through the Minor League system with a lot of guys that are pitching for us now.

"I know, speaking from the bullpen side of things, that he means the world to us down there, the atmosphere that he's created for us. The way that he's kind of shown us how to go about our business down there, the way that his philosophy works, it works well."

Belcher was also happy with Radinsky's promotion.

"Rad is confident, qualified and deserving of the opportunity," Belcher wrote in an e-mail. "He has great passion for the job, and will be highly motivated to be great at it. The pitchers like and respect him, which is a necessity in building a foundation of trust.

"I am thrilled to see him get this opportunity, and I look forward to working with him going forward. I would imagine each and every pitcher is happy for him as well."

Pairing Radinsky with Miller is not exactly a new move for Cleveland, either. For the past decade, Miller served as the Minor League pitching coordinator for the Indians and he and Radinsky worked together for six years in the farm system. Radinsky said he was glad to be reuniting with Miller in the Major Leagues.

"I'm excited," Radinsky said. "We've always had good conversations about pitching. I'm looking forward to it. I think he brings a lot to the table, a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience. Hopefully it will translate up at the Major League level and I believe it will for him. I think he's going to be good."

As for Radinsky, Acta felt the coach earned the chance to be the staff's new leader.

"Scott Radinsky has done a tremendous job in the bullpen over the last two years," Acta said. "He's a guy who worked in our Minor League system and is familiar with our players, relates very well to all our players and is well respected. We felt that he deserved the chance to be our pitching coach.

"He worked extremely close with Tim Belcher over the last two years and the results are there. He's a guy that our pitchers trust and they gravitate toward him. We feel that he's the right guy to lead our pitching staff."

And a punk band in his spare time.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.