Next Pirates manager may have ties to Huntington's past


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Pirates general manager Neal Huntington vows a "thorough and exhaustive" search for a new manager -- one whose particular makeup, qualifications and dugout experience he wants to keep secretive, so the candidates won't study hard and try to feign the characteristics that the Pirates dearly seek.

This much seems certain: Huntington may not have to stray far from either his Cleveland Indians background or his 2007 working list to find men to interview to replace John Russell, officially ousted Monday.

• Eric Wedge, 42, the Indians manager before Huntington left Cleveland to become Pirates general manager, would appear to be the most qualified candidate for the Pirates. And that's for no other reason then he appears to be a top candidate for their National League Central Division rival Chicago Cubs, where he interviewed as well as with the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, before they hired Buck Showalter. Wedge's teams finished fourth, third, second and first in the AL Central on their way to the ALCS in 2007. Two Septembers later, he was fired.

• John Farrell, 48, who replaced Huntington as Cleveland's director of player development, was a Pirates candidate who pulled from the running one day before Russell was hired in late 2007. Farrell, the Boston Red Sox's acclaimed pitching coach the past four years, is no stranger to the Pirates: son Jeremy played third base at Class A Bradenton this summer.

• Mike Hargrove, 60, Indians manager for Huntington's first three seasons with that club, is interested in returning to a dugout after compiling a .503 winning percentage with two World Series trips in 16 seasons through 2007.

• Joel Skinner, 49, son of longtime Pirates fixture Bob Skinner, was interviewed by Huntington in 2007. He went 35-41 as an interim Cleveland manager in 2002, again during Huntington's tenure. But he managed Class AA Akron this past summer in the same Eastern League where the manager of the year, Matt Walbeck, was just fired by the Pirates -- seems illogical they would consider a skipper from the same loop.

Indeed, though Huntington so far has declined to delineate it, the Pirates will be looking for major league managing experience in their next hire, industry sources said.

"We've got to find the best people available to us," Huntington said Monday. "In some cases, they may be people who are familiar. In some cases, they may be people that are outside. ... There will be people inside the comfort zone. And there will be people that are from outside our familiar ranks."

Attributes of the manager they desire? Huntington remained mum.

"I think in our next manager, without providing a road map for the candidates to read as they come in here, we're going to be looking for a quality baseball man that brings the ability to lead this team in the direction that we're heading. ??? We certainly have a strong feel for what type of leader, what type of manager, what type of communicator, what type of teacher we're looking for.

"But, again, we don't want to provide a road map for the candidates as they come through. We want to learn about them and their particular styles and how they may impact players form different backgrounds, how they may impact all the elements that go into managing and leading a major league team. We'll draw those from the managerial candidates and how they align with our internal criteria, and we'll move forward to do everything we can to ensure we get the best man."

They might have to hurry, because baseball's checkout lines are crowded.

In addition to the aforementioned Blue Jays and Cubs, also conducting searches for new managers are Milwaukee and the New York Mets, whose jobs were officially declared open Monday, along with Seattle and Florida. And the Pirates make seven.

Among an ex-Pirates contingent of candidates around the majors:

• Ted Simmons, 61, the San Diego Padres bench coach who reputedly is a Mariners and Marlins candidate, served as the Pirates GM in 1992-93.

• Tony Pena, 53, former All-Star catcher with the Pirates, and onetime utility man Jim Fregosi, 67, are mentioned as Florida Marlins candidates as well.

• Dale Sveum, 46, steered the Brewers to 7-5 and the playoffs on a 2008 interim basis and may well interview there to replace the fired Ken Macha, a Monroeville and Pitt man along with also being an ex-Pirates player.

• Dave Clark, 48, third-base coach of the Astros who finished on a 44-35 kick with mostly youth this season, went 4-9 on an interim basis and interviewed at 2009's end for the Houston post. Clark, like Sveum a fixture as a Pirates player and in the past decade as a coach, expressed interest in the Pirates opening.

"That was an exciting, young ballclub to be a part of," Clark said of this summer's Astros. "We really showed development. They took that attitude: 'We got a chance to win every night, let's go out and do it.'

He finds the Pirates' youth equally enthralling.

"They're fun to watch. They're not a finished product yet, but you can see the direction they're going. They got some real good, young players over there. I tell you what, I think the future is going to be pretty bright."

"The process is the process," Huntington said of the seven current searches. "It may happen quickly. It may take some time. We've got to make sure that we're thorough, that we're diligent and we do everything in our power to find the right man to lead this organization forward."


Chuck Finder: cfinder@post-gazette.com . Find more at PBC Blog .


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