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Player support helped Nunnally's cause

Player support helped Nunnally's cause

INDIANAPOLIS -- It's good to have friends in high places.

As Indians manager Manny Acta was considering candidates for his vacant hitting-coach position, several of the players he's inheriting, including designated hitter Travis Hafner and star center fielder Grady Sizemore, were pushing hard for Jon Nunnally to get the job.

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Nunnally officially got the job Tuesday, and the Indians announced the decision Wednesday. Minor League field coordinator Dave Hudgens was the runner-up.

This was a promotion for Nunnally, who spent the '09 season at Triple-A Columbus after two years serving as the hitting coach at Class A Kinston.

"Besides the point of a Triple-A guy and being familiar with our guys, our guys love him," Acta said of Nunnally. "They love his energy, his work ethic, they love that he's a motivator. He was endorsed by a lot of our hitters. Some of the guys who went down there on rehab assignments and stuff were raving about him. We came away from our interview very impressed by him."

Nunnally is currently in Venezuela, serving as hitting coach on the Caracas team being managed by Hudgens. While Hudgens has a big league coaching background as a former hitting coach for the A's, Nunnally's familiarity with many of the young hitters he'll be working with worked in his favor.

Before he got into coaching, the 38-year-old Nunnally was a third-round Draft pick by the Tribe in 1992. He went on to play with seven different organizations from 1992-2006, including parts of six seasons at the big league level with the Royals (1995-97), Reds ('97-98), Red Sox ('99) and Yankees ('00).

Acta said he wasn't at all concerned that Nunnally tested positive for performance-enhancing substances and was suspended for 15 games while playing in the Pirates' system in 2005.

"That's something that is there," Acta said. "At the end of the day, you have to see the guy for who he is and the fact that he has been our Triple-A hitting coach. That wasn't a concern at all."

The hiring of Nunnally completed Acta's staff for his first year at the helm of the Tribe. Nunnally, pitching coach Tim Belcher, bullpen coach Scott Radinsky and assistant to the Major League staff Ruben Niebla were promoted from within, while bench coach Tim Tolman, third-base and infield coach Steve Smith and first-base and catching coach Sandy Alomar Jr. were brought in from outside the organization. Smith is the only coach without a previous career tie to the Tribe.

"I'm very happy," Acta said of his staff. "It's too bad you can't have 10 guys. I did come across a lot of good candidates. [Triple-A manager] Torey Lovullo [who has since moved on to the Red Sox organization] was fantastic. [Minor League outfield and baserunning coordinator] Gary Thurman was real, real good, and he's going to be a big part of our club during Spring Training. And [special assistant] Robby Thompson was another guy who blew me away. You can only have so many guys. But [the number of quality candidates] says a lot about our system."

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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