Hurdle: No talk with Pirates front office about extension
Although there is no indication manager Clint Hurdle will depart any time soon, the Pirates may already have targeted his possible successor.
Hurdle, who will turn 60 in July, is signed through next season. His contract includes a club option for 2018, which the Pirates have not yet triggered.
“How long will I go? I don’t know the shelf life,” Hurdle told the Tribune-Review. “I just know that I’m still engaged. I love what I do, I love who I’m doing it for, and I love who I’m doing it with. I’ll take it one year at a time.”
Hurdle, who has two grade school-age children, said he has not spoken with the front office about an extension.
“The only person I’ll have that conversation with right now is my wife,” he said. “There will be a point in time when this organization will let me know if it no longer wants me here or if it wants to keep me here. I’m not going to knock on the door. I don’t talk about it. I believe my volume of work has put me in a place where, if my career ended tomorrow, I’d be good.”
Over the past six seasons with the Pirates, Hurdle has a 509-462 record. He owns the sixth-most wins in franchise history.
Hurdle guided the Pirates to NL wild-card berths in 2013-15. This year, the team went 78-83 and missed the postseason.
Three weeks after the season ended, two of Hurdle’s long-time confidantes — veteran coaches Rick Sofield and Nick Leyva — were dismissed from the staff.
“Those were hard decisions,” Hurdle said. “I felt it was time for us to adjust in some areas.”
Amid the shakeup, Tom Prince was promoted to bench coach. As he learns how to fill the No. 2 job on the staff, Prince could be groomed to someday replace Hurdle.
“When we went through the staff transformation … I’m very mindful (of) helping us find the next guy to sit at the (manager’s) desk — whether it’s tomorrow, a week from tomorrow, a year from tomorrow,” Hurdle said. “I’d love to have a small part in growing up another guy to manage in the big leagues.”
Hurdle said it would be a “challenge” for the Pirates to hire their next manager from outside the organization.
President Frank Coonelly agreed the club’s preference for homegrown players carries over to management posts.
“We hope Clint manages the Pirates for a long time,” Coonelly said. “But, like with any other key leadership position, we want to be sure we’re developing successors.
“We have a bias toward promoting from within when possible, but we also have a bias toward hiring the best person for the job. If we develop our people the right way, they’ll be the best people for the job.”
Prince, 52, managed Double-A Altoona in 2015. He has spent 23 years with the Pirates as a player and coach, and was the minor league field coordinator in 2016.
In June 2014, the Pirates developed a plan for then-bench coach Jeff Banister to take over as interim manager if Hurdle’s degenerative hip condition required immediate surgery. His hip pain subsided, so Hurdle never asked the team to trigger its “Plan B” that season.
“One thing we focused on as we re-evaluated our (2016) season was coming up with a new Plan B,” Hurdle said. “I think that’s fair and smart. Tom Prince is a guy who we need to get in front of our players at the major league level.”
Banister was Hurdle’s bench coach from 2011-14, then was hired as Texas Rangers manager before the 2015 season.
“I am proud of Jeff Banister,” Hurdle said “Over (four) years, we poured into each other to get him ready for an opportunity. The way it’s worked out has been fantastic.”
Note: The April 7 home opener against the Atlanta Braves will have a 1:05 p.m. start time.