Hitting coach Ritchie is due to leave
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At least one Pirates coach will not return for the 2013 season. Whether others follow could be determined today.
Hitting coach Gregg Ritchie will not return next season, according to a source, and is expected to be introduced as the baseball coach at George Washington University, his alma mater.
Ritchie, however, denied reports he had accepted the job, saying Wednesday there is "mutual interest" between he and the school.
"I'm still a Pirate," he said.
But Ritchie spoke as if he were leaving the clubhouse for the final time.
"I love these guys here," he said.
"I had a lot of them coming up through the minor leagues, and this is a group of guys that's absolutely going to get it done."
His job status would have been in question this offseason after the Pirates finished near the bottom of the league in a handful of offensive categories.
They finished 14th in the National League in batting average, 14th in on-base percentage and second in strikeouts.
They endured a stagnant offense the first two months of the season before hitting well in June and July. Their offense was inconsistent the final two months.
Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones took steps forward and Andrew McCutchen produced an MVP-caliber season.
Ritchie, 48, became the hitting coach in November 2010. He spent seven years with the organization, previously as the minor league hitting coordinator.
He denied rumors he was planning to take the George Washington job in August but said he has re-evaluated things since.
"It's just a situation where you check out where you're at in some things, and you just say 'Hey, let me think about it,' " he said.
Manager Clint Hurdle was noncommittal Wednesday when asked if he planned changes to his coaching staff.
"[General manager] Neal [Huntington] and I are going to start our meetings [today]," Hurdle said. "So, I have no comment about any staffing issues until after I talk to my general manager. He'll probably ask for my input, and I'll get his input."
The Pirates head to the offseason with a good idea of what the team will look like next season.
"I think you've got two outfield corners that are going to be open for competition going in," Hurdle said.
"You've got your mind set how you might want to see them. McCutchen's going to play center. [Clint] Barmes is going to play short. Alvarez is going to play third. [Neil] Walker's going to play second."
Hurdle said Jones likely has earned a starting spot at first base, should the Pirates hold onto him. Entering his second year of arbitration, Jones likely will command a salary in excess of $5 million.
The Pirates also will bring back Michael McKenry, though they could pursue other options at catcher. They don't have to make a decision on a $3.5 million option for Rod Barajas until five days after the conclusion of the World Series.
"You're talking about maybe two positions, and you've got four guys in house right now that you're going to look at in [Starling] Marte, [Travis] Snider, [Jose] Tabata and [Alex] Presley for the outfield spot," Hurdle said.
"That's about as transparent, clean cut as you can get."
Until a late-season slide, the Pirates were poised to break season-attendance and sellout records. The Pirates drew 2,091,918 fans to PNC Park, the second-highest total in franchise history. Only the 2001 season -- the first year in the new ballpark -- drew more fans: 2,436,139. There were 17 sellouts this season, two shy of a PNC Park record, also set in '01.
First Published October 4, 2012 12:00 am