With the Indians in the midst of offensive struggles that have played a large part in decimating their substantial lead in the Central Division, Nunnally – Cleveland’s hitting coach for the past two seasons – was fired.
The dismissal was made official Sunday, but Nunnally was actually let go prior to Saturday’s game, and was not in the dugout for the Indians’ 5-1 win over the Pirates.
Bruce Fields, the organization’s minor league hitting instructor since 2007, will take over for Nunnally on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.
Nunnally, 39, was a player favorite, with many of the Indians expressing surprise over his firing, which came with Cleveland in a first-place tie with Detroit.
“We’re still in first place,” right fielder Shin-Soo Choo said. “Why is he fired? I am very disappointed because he helped me a lot. Not just me, everybody on the team.”
Choo, a career .297 hitter, who had slumped to .237 through Saturday, is one of a number of Cleveland players performing below expectations at the plate.
The Indians entered Sunday batting .251 overall, and .271 with runners in scoring position, while averaging 4.4 runs per game. But they had hit an offensive rut as of late, batting .156 (17-for-109) with runners in scoring position since
June 2 through Saturday, while being shut out six times in 18 games from May 27-June 14.
“We’ve been scuffling for a while and I felt like we need a new voice,” Indians 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.”
Nunnally was at Progressive Field prior to Saturday’s game, meeting with Acta and general manager Chris Antonetti, then leaving the park after being fired. Antonetti said he and Acta made the decision, both feeling it was the right time for a change.
Fields, 50, is in his sixth year with the Indians, serving as Triple-A Buffalo’s hitting coach in 2006, before taking over as coordinator. He was born in Cleveland, played three years in the majors and was Detroit’s hitting coach from 2003-05.
“There is no magic answer,” 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.”
Nunnally spent six seasons in the majors, retiring in 2006, before beginning his coaching career as Cleveland affiliate High-A Kinston’s hitting coach from 2007-08. He served the same role for Triple-A Columbus in 2009, then joined the major league staff for Acta’s first year as manager last season.
The Indians host the Colorado Rockies in a three-game series that begins tonight at 7:05.
Fausto Carmona (4-8, 5.79 ERA) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing RHP Juan Nicasio (2-1, 3.38), while Mitch Talbot (2-4, 5.02) goes for the Indians on Tuesday (7:05) against RHP Jhoulys Chacin (8-4, 2.81).
Josh Tomlin (8-4, 3.93) pitches the series finale Wednesday (7:05), while the Rockies counter with RHP Jason Hammel (3-6, 3.65).
Second baseman Jason Kipnis got the only hit for Columbus in a 4-0 loss to Scranton on Saturday.
• Shortstop Juan Diaz went 2-for-3 with his fourth homer and three RBIs Saturday in Double-A Akron’s 9-4 victory over Portland. Diaz, acquired along with Ezequiel Carrera in a trade with the Mariners last year for Russell Branyan, was batting .252 with 12 doubles and 28 RBIs in 66 games through Saturday.
• Second baseman Tyler Cannon (12th-round draft pick last year) went 4-for-4 with two doubles, three runs and an RBI on Saturday in High-A Kinston’s 9-0 win over Lynchburg.
• Class A Lake County first baseman Jesus Aguilar went 2-for-4 with his team-leading 11th homer and three RBIs Saturday in a 6-5 loss to West Michigan. Aguilar, acquired in a trade with the Brewers for LHP Chuck Lofgren last year, entered Sunday batting .274 with 43 RBIs in 63 games.
Carlos Carrasco (7-3, 3.87 ERA) entered Sunday leading the majors with six wins since May 17.
• The Indians have swept both of their first two interleague opponents, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, in three-game sets at Progressive Field. Cleveland, 124-129 all-time in interleague play, went 5-13 against NL opponents last year.
• The Indians drew 100,437 fans to Progressive Field for their three-game interleague series with Pittsburgh. It was the largest three-day total since 2008.
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