December 19, 2014

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No option for Hafner, Hernandez: Tribe brings back Ubaldo, fleshes out Francona staff

CLEVELAND — It was decision Wednesday for the Indians, who finalized new manager Terry Francona’s coaching staff and determined the fate of three big-name players under club options for 2013.

Hafner

Cleveland exercised the $5.75 million option on right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, but declined those on designated hitter Travis Hafner ($13 million) and right-hander Roberto Hernandez ($6 million), the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona.

Sandy Alomar Jr., who has not secured a managerial job elsewhere after losing out to Francona, is expected to return to Cleveland as bench coach, a position he held during Manny Acta’s final year on the job this season.

He could still leave should he be hired as a manager, but Alomar Jr. sounded as though he has not been approached.
“I can’t go to the moon without a rocket,” he said via conference call.

“In Sandy’s case, his reputation speaks for itself,” Francona said. “He was up for the manager job here and he will manage some day soon. I hope he gets what he wants. Selfishly, I hope he stays here.”

Had the Indians chosen to decline the option on Jimenez, who has largely been a disappointment since arriving in a well-documented trade with Colorado in 2011, he would have been owed a $1 million buyout and also would have been eligible for arbitration after going 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA in 31 starts this year.

The Indians could re-sign Hafner or Hernandez or both, but neither scenario seems likely. Hafner is still owed a $2.75 million buyout.

If this is the end of Hafner’s career in Cleveland, it finished in highly disappointing fashion. In four seasons from 2004-07, Hafner hit .300-plus three times, while averaging just over 31 home runs and driving in at least 100 runs each year.

Those numbers earned him a lucrative contract extension during the 2007 season that paid him $57 million from 2009-12, but injuries decimated his playing time and production from there. He played in 100-plus games just once the past five seasons, batting .228 with 12 homers and 34 RBIs in 66 games this year.

“Early in his career, he was one of the best and most feared hitters in the American League,” general manager Chris Antonetti said of the team’s all-time leader in homers and RBIs as a DH. “Unfortunately, the injuries prevented him from continuing to play at that level.”

Hernandez, 32, never regained the form he displayed as a Cy Young contender in 2007. Shortly after the Indians chose to exercise a 2012 option on the right-hander, he was arrested in the Dominican Republic on false identity charges, when his real name and age were revealed. He was detained and didn’t return until August, making three starts (0-3, 7.53 ERA) before an ankle injury ended his season.

If Alomar Jr. stays on as a coach, he will be joined by a relative unknown in pitching coach Mickey Callaway, Cleveland’s minor league pitching coordinator last year, following two seasons as a pitching coach in the Indians’ minor league system. Callaway, 37, pitched in 40 major league games with Tampa Bay, Texas and the Angels from 1999-2004.

Ty Van Burkleo brings five years of big league coaching experience with him as the hitting coach, holding that role on an interim basis with Houston at the end of this year after spending parts of the past two seasons as Astros minor league hitting coordinator. Before that, Van Burkelo, 50, was Oakland’s hitting coach from 2007-08, then served as bench coach in Seattle (2009-10) just prior to manager Eric Wedge’s arrival.

Brad Mills, who was fired this year during his third season as Houston manager, will be reunited with Francona as the Indians’ third base coach. Mills, 55, was an assistant coach during the majority of Francona’s managerial stints in Philadelphia (1997-2001) and Boston (2004-11). He is also the father of former Cleveland minor leaguer Beau Mills, a first-round draft choice in 2007.

Mike Saurbaugh, who has been with the Indians’ organization since 1995, was hired as first base coach. Sarbaugh, 45, spent the past three seasons as manager at Triple-A Columbus.

Kevin Cash, a catcher during a nine-year big league career that included a stop in Boston for a World Series title under Francona in 2007, will serve as Cleveland’s bullpen catcher. He spent his first year after retirement as an advanced scout for Toronto this season.

“I think we have a well-rounded staff,” Francona said. “You try to take everything into consideration and hire the right people for the right jobs, and let them go to work. I think we’re going to do that.”

Roundin’ third

  • The Indians outright assigned right-hander Kevin Slowey and outfielder Vinny Rottino to Triple-A Columbus. Slowey, who was a candidate for a rotation spot this spring, spent most of the year on Columbus’ disabled list. Rottino, a September call up for Cleveland, hit .107 with a homer and two RBIs in 18 games.
  • Left-hander Scott Maine, who appeared in nine games (1-2, 10.50 ERA) for the Indians this year, was claimed off waivers by Toronto.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.