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'DATZ' RIGHT, SKINNER IS HERD SKIPPER

Former Buffalo Bisons catcher Joel Skinner has been named manager of the Herd for the 2000 season, the parent Cleveland Indians announced today.

Skinner, 38, has been the manager of Cleveland's Double-A team in Akron, Ohio, the last two years. He directed the Aeros to an 81-60 record and first-round playoff berth in 1998, but this year's club finished 69-71 and missed the playoffs. The Aeros went 9-27 in one stretch of the second half after getting decimated by call-ups to Buffalo.

Skinner becomes the first modern-era Bison to return to manage the team. He was a catcher on the 1985 club, Buffalo's first Triple-A team since 1970. Skinner hit .241 for the Bisons that season with 12 homers and 59 RBIs in 115 games. He had nine game-winning RBIs, second to Mark Ryal's 11.

Skinner replaces Jeff Datz, who has been promoted to Cleveland's field coordinator. Datz went 153-134 in his two seasons in Buffalo, including last season's International League title and trip to the inaugural Triple-A World Series.

Skinner has posted a 362-274 record in five years of managerial duty in the Tribe system and is considered one of the brightest bench prospects in the minor leagues. He was Baseball Weekly's minor league manager of the year in 1998, and won league honors in the Carolina League in 1997 (87-53 at Class A Kinston) and the New York-Penn League in 1995 at Class A Watertown.

Datz and Skinner were both added to the Indians' coaching staff this week for the rest of the regular season. Brian Graham, Buffalo's modern-era victory leader with 253 from 1995-1997, is Cleveland's first-base coach.

Skinner played 564 games for the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Indians from 1983-1991 and was considered an outstanding defensive catcher. He had a lifetime fielding percentage of .988 and made just 32 errors in his career. Skinner's lifetime batting average was .228.

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