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Indians to name Wedge manager

CLEVELAND — Eric Wedge will fit right in with the youthful Cleveland Indians. He’s as young as most of them.

The Indians will make the 34-year-old Wedge the youngest manager in the majors, a team source told The Associated Press yesterday.

Wedge, who managed Cleveland’s Triple-A team in Buffalo the past two seasons, will be introduced at a news conference Tuesday at Jacobs Field, said the source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Indians spokesman Bart Swain confirmed there will be a 3:30 p.m. news conference, but wouldn’t say why.

Wedge was chosen over Joel Skinner, the club’s former third-base coach who managed the Indians for 76 games last season after Charlie Manuel was fired.

Despite being passed over, Skinner is considering a position on Wedge’s staff, another team source said.

“I think it’s a good fit,” said Indians second baseman John McDonald, who played one season under Wedge in Buffalo. “I think he will help some of the younger players.”

Wedge will be younger than two of his players: Ellis Burks (38) and Omar Vizquel (35). Pittsburgh’s Lloyd McClendon, who is 43, had been the youngest manager in the majors.

Wedge is the second youngest manager in Indians’ history. Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau was 25 when he became the club’s player/manager in 1942.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wedge, who will turn 35 on Jan. 27, will be the youngest manager to make his big league debut since Bobby Valentine in 1985.

Valentine had just turned 35 when he managed his first game with the Texas Rangers.

Wedge, Skinner and Fredi Gonzalez, who managed Atlanta’s Triple-A Richmond affiliate, were the only candidates formally interviewed by Indians general manager Mark Shapiro.

The Indians, who began rebuilding midway through last season by trading away some high-priced veterans, had 19 rookies on their roster by the end of the season.

Wedge managed many of them in Buffalo on their way to joining the Indians.

“But the majors is totally different,” McDonald said. “It’s hard to say how a minor league manager will do in the majors. There are so many more things that you have to deal with. It’s all about winning.

“You can be a lousy manager, and if your players play good, then you’re going to look good.”

In two seasons, Wedge led the Bisons to a 178-108 record and was selected minor league manager of the year by The Sporting News this past season.

The Indians apparently believe that Wedge, who may be more dynamic and outgoing than

Skinner, was a better fit with their young roster.

“He’s more intense,” McDonald said of Wedge.

Skinner, 41, led the Indians to a 35-41 record, including a 15-13 mark in September, while dealing with injuries and having his roster constantly shuffled.

Skinner was also credited with helping the Indians deal with the death of Jimmy Warfield, the club’s popular longtime trainer who died five days after Skinner took over for Manuel.

McDonald didn’t hesitate when asked if would like to see Skinner stay.

“I hope so,” McDonald said.

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