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Tribe's coaching staff can take sigh of relief

Coaching staff can take sigh of relief

CLEVELAND -- The clouds of doubt that have hovered over Indians manager Eric Wedge and his coaching staff in recent weeks have given way to clear skies.

Whether they return after October is a matter that will be decided over the remainder of the second half. But for now, Wedge and his staff have been assured by general manager Mark Shapiro and the Larry and Paul Dolan ownership that their jobs are safe through the rest of the 2009 season.

Shapiro made the official announcement Sunday morning.

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"As I've said all along, the responsibility for the disappointments this season doesn't rest with one person," Shapiro said. "The responsibility is spread equally throughout the players, the front office, Eric and his staff. And I felt it's important for the remainder of the second half to remove the potential distraction that exists from that speculation."

That last point was an important one for Shapiro. When rumors swirled about CC Sabathia's possible departure last summer, the Indians found themselves in the midst of a 10-game losing streak. Players pointed to the Sabathia situation as a distraction.

Shapiro didn't want that to happen this time around.

"I'm not very sympathetic to the potential of that distraction," Shapiro said, "but I'm eliminating that potential, at this point."

Wedge was pleased to hear the news, but he said this doesn't change anything with regard to how he goes about his job.

"I just focus on today and working hard to help our players be better," he said. "We've got a solid coaching staff that cares about the right things, and we're going to be much better. The things I can't control, I don't concern myself with."

Players surveyed after Sunday's game expressed satisfaction with the news.

"For me, it's great news," catcher Victor Martinez said. "He always cares about us. He lets you play and makes you play the game the right way. I'm really happy to hear that. He's a great manager. It's easy to blame one guy instead of 25 guys."

Said first baseman Ryan Garko: "A lot of that [speculation] got overblown in the first place."

Of course, this doesn't mean Wedge -- who is 529-525 in seven years at the helm entering Sunday and was the 2007 American League Manager of the Year -- and his staff are completely off the hook. The Indians entered Sunday's play with a 33-49 record and 12 games back in the AL Central, a division they entered the season expecting to claim. A large segment of the fan base has been clamoring for change.

While Wedge's fate might not be directly tied to the wins and losses, it is certainly tied to the job he and his coaches do at developing the young players on the roster for 2010 and beyond. Of particular interest are the second halves to come from Fausto Carmona, who is nearing his return from a Minor League banishment, and Rafael Perez, who hasn't been the key bullpen cog he was expected to be entering the season.

"There are a lot of young players we need to see develop so that we have a better base for making evaluations going into the offseason," Shapiro said.

In recent weeks, particularly as the Indians went 9-18 in June, speculation began to mount that Wedge and his coaches were the ones under intense evaluation not just by Shapiro, but also by the ownership. Shapiro has been unwavering in his support of Wedge and his insistence that the accountability for what's transpired over the past two seasons rests with him, not Wedge. But the view of ownership was somewhat of a mystery, and it was expected that Shapiro and the Dolans would meet to discuss the managerial situation, among other topics.

In talking to reporters Sunday, however, Shapiro made it clear that his announcement is not the result of a specific meeting, but rather the next step in a continuing conversation about the direction of the ballclub.

"It was a natural progression to take this public," Shapiro said.

Shapiro also said the last couple weeks have not been awkward for him and Wedge.

"The communication with Eric and I has been consistent, completely open and honest," Shapiro said. "We know the nature of the relationship going in, and we know the potential outcomes that exist."

Shapiro also shook off any notion that the Tribe players have tuned out Wedge this season.

"There hasn't been any prolonged point of this season where I think our club hasn't been giving the effort," Shapiro said. "The talent's been lacking at times, but the club's been giving the effort."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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