MIAMI -- The fate of any coaching staff tends to be tied to its manager, but the Pirates will be weighing their coaches as individuals.
And one whose work stood out this season, pitching coach Ray Searage, will be considered to keep his job, general manager Neal Huntington said. Since taking over Aug. 8 after Joe Kerrigan's firing, the pitching staff has gone from a 5.07 ERA to 4.85. Nothing dramatic there, but the September ERA dropped to 4.38.
More important, perhaps, key individuals such as Charlie Morton showed visible improvement, and the players appear to have genuinely taken to Searage.
"I think the numbers speak for themselves," Huntington said. "Ray had an obvious impact on our bullpen earlier this season, with the growth of maturity of [Joel] Hanrahan and [Evan] Meek. Certainly the pitchers have thrown the ball better as of late, and Ray deserves his credit, and we certainly recognize that. There's a reason he was added to the major league staff. We believe he can make a positive impact on the pitchers under his care, and that's something we'll take into consideration."
Most of the coaches' contracts expire after this season. The rest of the staff is bench coach Jeff Banister, hitting coach Don Long, first base coach Carlos Garcia, third base coach Tony Beasley and bullpen coach Luis Dorante. Banister, a 25-year employee who was minor league field coordinator before being promoted on an interim basis, is expected to stay in some capacity.
All of the Pirates' prized amateur pitching acquisitions this summer -- Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie and Luis Heredia -- have been cleared to pitch in their first professional games in the Florida Instructional League. The 12-game schedule began Monday and runs through Oct. 22.
Director of player development Kyle Stark said Taillon is the closest to being ready but that all three are healthy and throwing. He also said he was impressed with their early conduct.
"All three are mature, especially for their age," Stark said. "They have obviously been exposed to varying degrees of structure, with Taillon being exposed to the most. They have been model students and are anxious to learn and get better."
Huntington, traveling across Florida today to see some of the activity, said one of the brightest early sights has been the performance of catcher Tony Sanchez, who missed much of the past season to being beaned twice.
• Third baseman Pedro Alvarez was out of the lineup for the season finale because of a slightly hyperextended right knee, the result of landing hard on first base in the eighth inning Saturday night.
• Huntington said he expects all of the team's various pitchers who had surgery to be ready for spring training, except pitcher Donnie Veal (elbow), who probably will need until midseason to play competitively. Pitchers Kevin Hart (shoulder) and Jose Ascanio (shoulder) will challenge for bullpen spots. Both are out of options.
• Final list of players committed to winter ball: Morton, outfielder Lastings Milledge, third baseman Andy LaRoche, catcher Jason Jaramillo and relievers Sean Gallagher and Justin Thomas.