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INDIANS PITCHING COACH Brown out, Willis is in as skipper makes change



Published: Tue, March 25, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Manager Eric Wedge wasn't comfortable with Mike Brown.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- Rookie manager Eric Wedge made his first pitching move with the Cleveland Indians.

Wedge changed pitching coaches just 12 days before the club's season opener, firing Mike Brown and replacing him with Carl Willis on Wednesday.

Willis had been the pitching coach at Triple-A Buffalo the past two seasons under Wedge, who has made it clear in his first spring training camp that the Indians are his team.

Wedge said he decided to make the move in the past couple of days and did it with general manager Mark Shapiro's approval. Wedge felt it was necessary to make the change before the regular season started.

"You have to be comfortable in your staff and believe in the fit," said Wedge, adding that the timing of the coaching change won't affect his team. "That fit was something that was important to me. We're not going to miss a beat."

Developed Sabathia

Brown became Cleveland's pitching coach before last season after being the club's roving pitching instructor from 1995 to 2001. He helped develop some of the Indians' young pitchers, including C.C. Sabathia and Danys Baez.

Brown, 44, has been offered an unspecified assignment in the organization. He has not yet decided if he wants to stay with the Indians.

"I'm disappointed," said Brown, who was told he had been fired on Monday. "I'm not Eric's guy. He's not comfortable with me and he doesn't trust me."

Brown drove back to his home in Stow after being dismissed and spoke to reporters on a conference call.

"Eric's personality and mine just didn't mesh," said Brown. "We were in the same book, we just weren't on the same page."

Wedge had made just one other addition to Cleveland's staff since last season, bringing in Buddy Bell as his bench coach, before switching pitching coaches.

"It's been something that I've been wrestling with and agonizing over," he said. "It's something that I felt needed to happen. This comes back to me and it's the fit that I want for me and my ball club."

Third in three years

Willis is the Indians' third pitching coach in three years. Dick Pole was fired following the 2001 season and replaced by Brown.

"I was shocked, to say the least," Willis said.

The Indians will begin the season with two rookies -- Jason Davis and Ricardo Rodriguez -- in their starting rotation. Willis, 42, has worked with many of Cleveland's pitchers before.

"Most of the guys I had in the minor leagues, and I think that makes this easier for them," he said.

Willis pitched in 267 games as a major leaguer, going 22-16 while playing for Detroit, Cincinnati, the Chicago White Sox, California, Cleveland and Minnesota.

He won eight games for the Twins in 1991 when the club won the World Series.

Shapiro said Terry Clark has been promoted from Double-A Akron to take Willis' spot in Buffalo, and Steve Lyons will move up from Kinston as Akron's new pitching coach.




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