PITTSBURGH (AP)—Clint Hurdle has been hired as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager, saying he’s not intimidated by the franchise’s record 18 consecutive losing seasons.
Hurdle replaces John Russell, who was fired the day after completing a 105-loss season—the Pirates’ worst in 58 years.
Hurdle, previously the hitting coach for the AL champion Texas Rangers, is the sixth full-time Pirates manager since the club last had a winning season in 1992.
“This will eventually get done, and I don’t have a doubt it will,” Hurdle said. “I wanted to be here when it turns. … It’s a wonderful and perfect fit. It’s the right organization at the right time.”
The Pirates identified Hurdle as a candidate from the start, but could not talk to him until Texas’ season ended with a loss to San Francisco in Game 5 of the World Series. He also was being considered for the Mets’ job, but was hired by Pittsburgh before having a second interview in New York, where he once played.
Hurdle was attracted to the Pirates because of their core of young talent led by center fielder Andrew McCutchen, third baseman Pedro Alvarez, second baseman Neil Walker and left fielder Jose Tabata.
His interview with owner Bob Nutting, president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington was two-way — he had questions about the major league-low payroll and the commitment to winning. Apparently, he was satisfied with the answers he received.
“They asked difficult questions and I asked tough questions,” he said. “They defended the fort. … I looked in their eyes and said, ‘Are you all in?’ “he said. “And they said they’re in.”
The 53-year-old Hurdle turned down a second interview with the Mets, the only other club seeking a manager.
Hurdle managed in Triple-A, Double-A and Single A before going 534-625 as the Rockies’ manager 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, and then won seven consecutive postseason games.
Under Hurdle the Rockies finished second in the NL West once, third once, fourth four times and last twice, with only one winning season.
Hurdle compared the Pirates’ situation to what he faced when he arrived in Colorado, saying “Kids in my neighborhood got beat up for wearing Rockies’ jerseys.”
“I’m proud to be a Pirate, and we’re not going to back down from anybody,” he said.
Hurdle inherits a team that, despite promoting four everyday players to the majors since 2009, 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 said improving the pitching staff immediately is his top priority, and he believes there is help available outside the organization.
Hurdle said he didn’t demand the right to hire his entire coaching staff, and he will consider some who currently work in the organization.
He also pulled out a quote he said he has carried with him for a dozen years, from Penn State coach Joe Paterno: “You’ve got to believe deep inside you’re destined to do great things.”