TRIBE ROUNDUP \ News and notes
Positive response: The Cleveland Indians were pleased to hear their manager will be hanging around. Eric Wedge’s three-year contract extension through 2010 was greeted positively Monday by his players, who have adopted his no-nonsense approach on the field. “He’s our guy,” said pitcher Jake Westbrook. “He’s our leader and it’s good that he’ll be around.” The Indians decided to tear up Wedge’s previous deal, which included a two-year option for 2008 and 2009, and signed the 39-year-old to a new contract that takes him through this season and three more. Westbrook has spent more time with Wedge than any other Cleveland player. Westbrook, who was with Wedge for parts of two seasons at Triple-A Buffalo, said Wedge’s style hasn’t changed much from his days in the minors. “He’s one of those guys you can talk to, and that’s important, especially for the young guys,” Westbrook said. “He’s one of those guys the players can go to and they’re not afraid to do that. He has always been the same manager. I think that’s what has gotten him here. That’s the type of mentality he has always had.” Travis Hafner, Cleveland’s hard-hitting DH who signed a four-year, $57 million extension last week, said Wedge has had a dramatic influence on the Indians. “We’ve taken on his personality,” he said. “We show up early and play hard every day and I think that’s a reflection of the manager. He knows his players well and he’s been here for a long time. I think everyone in here is really excited that they got this done.” Wedge’s future wasn’t so certain after the club dropped from 93 wins in 2005 to just 78 last season. A bad first half this season could have resulted in a managerial change, something the Indians couldn’t imagine now. “You never know what the front office is thinking from year to year,” Westbrook said. “I think the team is excited about it and pleased with the extension because, one, we like the manager, and two, it keeps the same thing going we got going now. It keeps it all stabilized.”
Lofton watch: Are the Indians on Kenny Lofton’s trail? According to the Dallas Morning News, Cleveland has been scouting Lofton, who has twice roamed center field for the Indians and could be on their radar as the July 31 trading deadline draws near. General manager Mark Shapiro would not comment specifically on the newspaper report, which said the Indians and Milwaukee Brewers had scouts in Texas on Saturday to get a closer look at the 40-year-old Lofton, who is having a nice season for the Rangers. Lofton entered Monday batting .309 with six homers and 20 steals in 76 games. Shapiro has made it known he would like to bolster Cleveland’s bullpen, but admitted he’s also looking at position players. “There is not one player we are keying on,” he said. “There are a number of players we are looking at, at a variety of positions.”
Baselines: The Indians entered Monday trailing Detroit by one-half game in the AL Central. Through 91 games last season, they were 201⁄2 games back. ... Cleveland signed RHP Joey Mahalic (32nd round), RHP Josh Judy (34th) and CA Brian Juhl (35th), three picks from last month’s first-year player draft. The Indians have signed 17 picks.