Pirates release title-winning Double-A manager
MIAMI — After leading Double-A Altoona to the Eastern League title, manager Matt Walbeck wasn’t sure if he wanted to return or seek a higher-level job elsewhere.
The Pirates made the decision for him.
Late Wednesday night, director of player development Kyle Stark called Walbeck and fired him.
“It caught me off-guard,” Walbeck said yesterday by phone from his home in California. “Kyle basically said it was time for us to go our separate ways.”
In its second season under Walbeck, the Curve was 82-60 — a 20-win improvement from 2009 — and earned its first EL championship. Walbeck, 40, was the league’s Manager of the Year.
“There was no reason for me to believe things weren’t going well,” he said. “It was a very healthy environment. I understand the Pirates’ (development) plan, and I bought into it because it works.”
The Curve’s success intensified Walbeck’s desire to coach or manage in Triple-A and eventually return to the majors. He played in the big leagues from 1993 to 2003 and was the Texas Rangers’ third-base coach in 2008.
“We want all our staff members to go on to bigger and better things,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “But, in this instance, we didn’t have (a higher position) for him. We certainly appreciate everything Matt has done for us the past two seasons. We felt it was best to allow him to go and pursue other upper-level opportunities.”
Walbeck won three minor league titles from 2004-07 while managing in the Detroit Tigers’ system. His six-year record as a manager is 456-384.
“I’ve always done the best I can, knowing that one day I’ll get back to the big leagues,” he said. “The Pirates sensed that I wanted to advance and probably felt this is best for my development.”
Pirates game day
7:10 p.m. today
Sun Life Stadium, Miami
TV/radio: FSN/WPGB-FM (104.7), WCNS-AM (1480), WJPA-AM (1450), Pirates Radio Network, XM Channel 184
Pitchers: RHP Daniel McCutchen (2-5, 6.36) will start for the Pirates. RHP Adalberto Mendez (1-2, 4.19) will start for Florida.
Notable: LHP Paul Maholm had been slated to pitch, but he was scratched with left knee pain. He ends the year with a 9-15 record and 5.10 ERA.