PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates will introduce former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle as their new manager at a news conference Monday.
Hurdle, the batting coach for the AL champion Texas Rangers, replaces John Russell, who was fired the day after completing a 105-loss season — the Pirates’ worst in 58 years and their record-extending 18th consecutive losing season. Russell lost 299 games in three seasons.
The Pirates interviewed eight candidates, but only Hurdle and longtime Pirates minor league field coordinator Jeff Banister were in the running. Banister’s scant major league experience — two months as the Pirates’ interim bench coach this past season — was a major drawback.
The team preferred an experienced manager to handle a group of promising young players — Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata — that has minimal talent surrounding it. Last season, Pittsburgh had the majors’ worst ERA (5.00), second-lowest team batting average (.242) and tied for the most errors (127).
Hurdle, 53, was scheduled to have a second interview with the Mets, the only other club seeking a manager. He apparently decided to take a firm offer from the Pirates — apparently, for three seasons — rather than wait to see if he would get the Mets’ job.
Hurdle has declined to comment about either opening. Former Astros and Angels manager Terry Collins is believed to be a leading candidate for the Mets job, with Bob Melvin in contention.
Hurdle was 534-625 with the Rockies from 2002-09, leading them to the 2007 World Series. Before being swept by the Red Sox, the Rockies won 14 of their final 15 games, then won seven consecutive postseason games. The Rockies finished second in the NL West once under Hurdle, third once, fourth four times and last twice, with only one winning season.
Hurdle is highly regarded for his work with young players, a quality the Pirates were seeking with a stream of additional prospects reaching the majors as early as 2011. They have spent heavily on draft picks the last three summers.
Hurdle played 10 seasons in the majors, hitting .259 with 32 homers and 193 RBIs after once being regarded as one of the top young players in the game. He began managing in the minors in 1988, one year after retiring as a player. He became the Rockies’ batting coach in 1997 and replaced Buddy Bell as manager in 2002.
Hurdle was fired on May 29, 2009, following an 18-28 start, and was replaced by Jim Tracy, the Pirates’ manager before Russell was hired. During Hurdle’s one season with Texas, the club led the majors in hitting and was fifth in runs scored.
The Pirates interviewed Hurdle on Nov. 4, then waited until he interviewed with the Mets last Wednesday.
Hurdle also serves as a spokesman for the Prader-Willi Foundation, which helps those born with a chromosomal disorder that can cause muscular and appetite problems. His daughter, Madison, 8, has the disorder. A Pittsburgh-based facility, the Children’s Institute, is considered to be one of the nation’s top providers of care for those with Prader-Willi syndrome.
Former Indians manager Eric Wedge was the first to interview with Pittsburgh, but he later took the Seattle job. The Pirates also interviewed John Gibbons, Ken Macha, Bo Porter, Carlos Tosca and Dale Sveum.
The Pirates have had five full-time managers since last having a winning season under Jim Leyland in 1992, when they lost Game 7 of the NLCS in Atlanta: Leyland (1986-96), Gene Lamont (1997-2000), Lloyd McClendon (2001-05), Tracy (2006-07) and Russell (2008-10), who was fired as a Pirates’ coach only two years before being hired as manager. Pete Mackanin was the interim manager for 26 games in 2005.
The Pirates have lost at least 94 games in each of the last six seasons.