The Pirates wasted little time jump-starting their search to replace John Russell, inviting to Pittsburgh a top prospect within a two-hour drive and interviewing him Tuesday: former Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge.
Wedge, 42, was the American League manager of the year in 2007, when he directed a young team to the AL Championship Series, where it frittered away a 3-1 lead and lost in seven games to the Boston Red Sox. He directed the Indians to finishes of fourth, third, second and then first in his opening four seasons as manager. He was fired at the end of the 2009 season after the financially strapped club traded away CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez to begin another rebuilding stage.
He went 561-573 (.495) overall, but in four of his seven seasons the Indians won 80 games or more and twice won 93 or more. Wedge, who reportedly made $1.3 million this year while out of baseball, has interviewed with the Chicago Cubs, Toronto and Baltimore. The Orioles hired Buck Showalter on Aug. 2.
Wedge's interview met with swift approval from the last world-champion Pirates manager and a senior advisor to general manager Neal Huntington: Chuck Tanner.
"If they get him, they'll get a good one," said Tanner, who as an Indians scout from 2003-07 would often sit with Wedge in the dugout before games. "If he's the manager, he'll have them running. He's aggressive. He's enthusiastic. Brought the young ones along. They played good, solid, fundamental baseball, too. He's had a lot of experience in the big leagues. That's the type of guy we need. He'd fit right in with these guys."
Among other potential candidates:
• Baltimore Orioles coach and interim manager Juan Samuel, 49, who went 17-34 before Showalter's arrival, was contacted and told the Baltimore Sun he is likely to interview soon with the Pirates and Milwaukee. Huntington declined to comment on potential candidates, only confirming that the Pirates interviewed Wedge.
• Ted Simmons, 61, the Pirates' general manager in 1992-93 and the San Diego Padres' bench coach, said he would be interested: "I made myself clear, I would hope to manage in the 2011 season. I would go and manage anywhere" that is interested in him.
• John Farrell, the Red Sox pitching coach and the Indians' director of player development after Huntington, said "no official contact has been made -- [and] any further comment regarding their position should come from the Pirates themselves."
• Ousted Milwaukee manager Ken Macha said: "The last time this job was open, I was home [and out of work in 2007]. My policy is, I'm not really going to politick in the paper. Let it all play out at their end. I respect what they're going to do." There was contact between he and the Pirates in '05, but not '07.
• Phil Garner, a member of the 1979 Pirates world champions and a 15-year manager with one National League pennant (Astros, 2005) on his resume, sounded on Sirius XM radio as if he would be interested. He told the MLB Network Radio that he has not been called by the Pirates. "I'd like to sit down with the owner and the GM and say, 'OK, boys, how's that [current approach] working for us? Let's do something totally different. And I mean different training.' I've got some ideas I don't even want to talk about, because I don't want anybody else to hear them."