April 19, 2014

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Manuel enjoys return – Tribe Notes

CLEVELAND — The last manager to guide the Indians to the postseason was back at Jacobs Field on Monday, and it wasn’t Mike Hargrove.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who led the Indians to their last Central Division championship in 2001, returned to Cleveland’s home park for the first time since managing the team from 2000-02.
“Field looks good,” said Manuel, who was fired by Indians general manager Mark Shapiro 87 games into the ’02 season, “bigger scoreboard than back then.
“I have so many good memories from here. I could be sitting here next year talking about it.”
Manuel, 63, spent the bulk of his coaching/managerial career in Cleveland, joining the organization in 1990. He was the club’s hitting coach from 1994-99 before succeeding Hargrove as manager the following season.
In his first year on the job, Manuel met Eric Wedge, then Double-A Akron manager, who assisted the Indians at spring training.
“I think a lot of Charlie,” Wedge said. “He was always really good to me.”
Most people who meet the personable Manuel feel the same way. He is always good for a story or a joke, even when it’s on him, as evidenced by his description of one of the more memorable regular-season games during his tenure in Cleveland. The Indians overcame a 12-run deficit to beat the Mariners 15-14 in 11 innings at Jacobs Field on Aug. 5, 2001.
“We ran out of players,” Manuel said. “That’s why we won that game. I couldn’t make any more moves.”
The oft-criticized Manuel is in his third season with Philadelphia, where he had his Phillies in third place in the National League East, trailing first-place New York by two games through Sunday. It may or may not be the last stop in a lengthy professional baseball career for Manuel, which began in 1963 as an outfielder with the Minnesota Twins.
“I’ve been in baseball all my life,” Manuel said. “It’s all I’ve ever done and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Take on Jake
Jake Westbrook (strained abdominal) made his fourth rehab start Monday, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and four walks, while striking out three through four innings for Triple-A Buffalo against Louisville.
It is expected to be the final rehab outing for Westbrook, who is likely to rejoin the Indians sometime next week.
Reliable Raffy
How valuable has Rafael Betancourt been to Wedge?
“I think he’s probably been our most consistent reliever in terms of all the roles he’s held over the last three years,” said the manager. “What you’re seeing this year is him really step up as a back-end guy.”
Betancourt, who has taken over the setup role, entered Monday owning a 1.17 ERA (fourth-best among American League relievers), while working scoreless outings in his last 15 appearances.
Pronk’s problem
Travis Hafner was out of the lineup for the second straight day, getting what Wedge deemed a mental break.
Hafner entered Monday batting .262 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs in 65 games, hitting just .200 (6-for-30) over his last eight games, with no homers and just two extra-base hits in June.
“He hasn’t been driving the ball like he typically has in the past,” Wedge said. “Whenever you have a great hitter like Travis go through stretches (like this), it’s tough. The best thing about it is we’ve got a long ways to go.”
Minor details
Jon Van Every, a 29th-round pick in the 2000 draft, entered Monday leading Cleveland minor leaguers with a combined .349 batting average at Buffalo and Double-A Akron.
l Class-A Kinston wrapped up a first-half title in the Carolina League by winning 16 of its last 19 games. Kinston finished with the best first-half record in the league, placing five players and its manager, Mike Sarbaugh, on the CL All-Star team.
Roundin’ third
Victor Martinez threw out just 13.8 percent (16-of-116) of would-be base stealers last year. He had thrown out 27.7 percent (13-of-47) entering Monday, which ranked third in the AL.
l A host of Cleveland Browns rookies, including first-round draft choices Brady Quinn and Joe Thomas were in attendance. Both threw out ceremonial first pitches, with Thomas air-mailing fill-in catcher Ryan Garko and Quinn throwing a strike on the outside corner.