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Indians hope second batting coach will pay dividends on offense

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Cleveland Indians are banking on two sets of eyes being more beneficial than one.

In an effort to lighten the load on second-year Tribe hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo, Matt Quatraro recently joined the Indians as an assistant, giving the club two batting coaches for the first time in its 113-year franchise history.

"(It's a concept) coming into fashion and probably long overdue," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Dividing duties between two hitting coaches is new to the Indians, but it's an idea that's already begun to spread across the baseball landscape.

The World Series champion Boston Red Sox employ two batting coaches, as do three of the Indians' American League Central Division brethren -- the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins.

A definitive overall plan to split the Tribe's hitting coach responsibilities has yet to be firmly established, but for now Quatraro is digging in to spend spring training getting to know the team's hitters, their swings, routines and preferences.

"We'll figure out more in the coming weeks about how I'm going to be involved with the video and how I'm going to be involved with the advanced reports and things like that," said Quatraro, 40, who landed his first major-league job. He spent 18 years in the Tampa Bay Rays' organization making his way up from a minor-league player to hitting coach and most recently, hitting coordinator.

"Right now as the new guy, I'm simply setting the foundation with guys in the cages, getting to know them. Each day afterwards, I talk to Ty, so that we're on the same page. He does the same with me about the guys he has each day, so we're sharing information and it's a seamless process. With two batting cages in Cleveland, we'll do the same thing there."

When Van Burkleo suggested adding an assistant to his position when he was initially hired before last season, the Indians were open to the idea and put it on the agenda for 2014.

"The nature of the hitting coach position has evolved," Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti explained when Quatraro was hired in the offseason. "We ask so much of that spot. We break up our pitching staff between starters and relievers and there are two pitching coaches -- the main pitching coach and a bullpen coach to handle the relievers -- to divide labor among them.

"But our hitting coach is asked to work with 13 or 14 hitters in addition to the demands of the other part of the job that deal with prep work."

Prep work aside, Quatraro doesn't see his new role becoming one in which certain batters prefer him over Van Burkleo or vice versa, similar to the concept of a personal catcher. The idea is not to divide and conquer, but to share duties and simply have another "set of eyes" so the coaches and players can bounce ideas off each other.

"I don't think they have to think the same way, although it does have to be one voice and one message," Francona said. "I think it's good sometimes to have a different set of eyes. I'm not saying Matt has a different philosophy, but if you do have different thoughts, that's not a bad thing."

Stephanie Storm can be reached at sstorm@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.

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