By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - Eric Wedge was given two more years to help turn around his young team on Friday when the Cleveland Indians exercised club options through 2006 on their first-year manager.
The 35-year-old Wedge, the youngest manager in the majors, has led the rebuilding Indians to a 42-60 record.
Wedge (pictured being ejected from a game, above) signed a two-year deal with the Indians last October, but general manager Mark Shapiro rewarded Wedge by picking up options for 2005 and 2006 and adding club options for 2007 and 2008.
"I really appreciate the fact that they have done this and done it so early," Wedge said in an interview on WTAM, the Indians' flagship station. "We've got a lot of work to do, but I feel we're on the right path."
Cleveland, which has 13 rookies on its 25-man roster, will begin a three-game series on Friday 14 games behind AL Central-leading Kansas City.
Shapiro has been impressed with Wedge's ability to get the most from his young players, and considers him a partner in the Indians' quest to return to their days of being one of the AL's top teams.
"Eric has exceeded even our highest expectations from a communication and leadership standpoint during his first season managing in the major leagues," Shapiro said.
After a 7-20 start in April, the Indians have gone 35-40 since May 1 and done so with veterans Ellis Burks, Omar Vizquel, Matt Lawton, Mark Wohlers and Bob Wickman sidelined with injuries.
"This is the place I want to be," Wedge said. "We both want to win a championship in Cleveland."
Before he was chosen over third-base coach Joel Skinner for the Indians' job, Wedge managed Cleveland's Triple-A Buffalo affiliate for two years.
He was chosen the International League's top manager in 2001 after leading the Bisons to a 91-51 record.
Following last season, Shapiro chose Wedge over Skinner, who served as the club's interim manager for 76 games in 2002 after Charlie Manuel was fired in July.
A former big-league catcher, Wedge was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1989 after starring at Wichita State. However, his career in the majors was plagued by knee injuries and he played in just 39 games.
Wedge retired as a player in 1997 while in Philadelphia's minor league system, and got his first managerial job the next year when he was hired by Shapiro, then Cleveland's minor league director, to manage one of the Indians' Class A teams.