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Belcher steps down as Indians pitching coach

Belcher steps down as Indians pitching coach

Belcher steps down as Indians pitching coach
CLEVELAND -- The Indians have known for months that Tim Belcher was thinking about stepping down as the team's pitching coach. Only recently did he finally inform the organization that he felt it was best to step aside.

On Thursday, Cleveland announced that Belcher has decided to resign as pitching coach, following a season in which the Tribe's arms served as a strength for much of the year. Part of Belcher's motivation was to be able to spend more time with his family.

"We had a pretty good idea that it was eventually going to come to an end," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "It's a tough decision to make. We respect it. It's a family decision. But, we're not closing the door on him."

Belcher will transition into a role within the club's baseball operations department. The Indians have not announced a new pitching coach, but general manager Chris Antonetti indicated that bullpen coach Scott Radinsky is a candidate. Another internal possibility might be Triple-A Columbus pitching coach Ruben Niebla.

Antonetti said Cleveland was not limiting its search to in-house options.

"We'll consider both internal and external candidates," Antonetti said.

Belcher addressed his decision in a statement issued by the team.

"After much reflection and deliberation," Belcher said, "I have decided not to return as the Major League pitching coach for the 2012 season. When I accepted the position two years ago, I understood and embraced the challenges of the role.

"Over the last two years, I was fully committed to the responsibilities of the job and enjoyed it. However, as I began to look forward to 2012, I felt that I would not be able to balance the changing needs of my family and the demands of the job.

"As a result, I have decided that it would be best for me to step away from coaching at this time."

Belcher, who will turn 50 in October, joined the Indians' Major League coaching staff two offseasons ago, when Manny Acta was hired as the team's manager. Before working as a pitching coach for Cleveland, Belcher spent the previous eight years working as a special assistant to baseball operations.

Belcher's new job will be similar to that previously held post. During that eight-year stint as a special assistant, Belcher worked closely with the player development system, providing instruction and evaluation at each level of the organization. Belcher also spent time scouting for the Major League club during those years.

The details of Belcher's new job are still being worked out.

"We'll define exactly what the specifics of the role will be at some point this winter," Antonetti said. "It will mirror what he's done in the past. He'll remain in the organization in a meaningful position."

Acta said losing Belcher is a big blow to the coaching staff.

"He's been a tremendous asset to this organization," Acta said. "They don't come any better than him. I haven't seen people as organized, as caring and as passionate as this guy. I'm going to miss him. It's not a secret, he's been a big-time help to me over the past two years and to our pitching staff."

His decision comes one day after it was revealed that Tim Tolman -- Acta's long-time friend and bench coach -- was stepping down from his role due to health reasons. First-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. will shift to bench-coach duties for 2012, barring another development.

Alomar's name has surfaced as an early favorite for the vacant managerial opening with the White Sox. If Chicago does come calling, the Indians will not prohibit Alomar from interviewing. Last winter, Alomar interviewed for the Blue Jays' managerial job, which eventually went to John Farrell.

"Our general policy," Antonetti said, "is that if a team has interest in one of our staff members or employees, then we certainly wouldn't stand in their way. Right now, we're elated that Sandy will continue to be with us and in an even more meaningful role."

Belcher's move back to the farm system makes him the third member of Acta's original Cleveland coaching core (Tolman and former hitting coach Jon Nunnally being the others) to now be off the staff. In June, the Indians dismissed Nunnally from his duties and hired Bruce Fields as the interim hitting coach.

Antonetti noted that Fields would be back as the hitting coach next year. Steve Smith will also be back next season, marking his third season as Cleveland's third-base coach. The Indians have not hired a new first-base coach as of yet, but Acta noted that he wants a person with a background in baserunning and outfield instruction.

Belcher -- born in Sparta, Ohio -- was originally hired by the Indians in November 2001 following a 14-year playing career that included stints with the Dodgers, Reds, White Sox, Tigers, Mariners, Royals and Angels. Belcher went 146-140 with a 4.16 ERA in his career and won the National League's Rookie of the Year honor in 1988 with Los Angeles.

This past season, Belcher helped guide a staff that cycled through 22 arms, including seven rookies. The Indians' staff ranked 10th in the American League with a 4.24 ERA as a whole, but the bullpen (3.71) ranked fifth overall. Cleveland's walks-per-nine-innings ratio of 2.9 was the third-best average in the AL.

Belcher also helped oversee breakout campaigns for starters Justin Masterson (12-10, 3.21 ERA) and Josh Tomlin (12-7, 4.25) this season.

"I want to thank the Indians for the opportunity to work with a good young pitching staff the past two years," Belcher said. "I am excited about the future of the team and I welcome the opportunity to continue working for the club in another capacity going forward."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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