Ex-Pirate All-Star named Curve manager

Curve players who want to know what it was like to play for a winning Pirates team can ask their new manager.

Former Bucco infielder Carlos Garcia was named the seventh manager in Curve history on Friday, and one thing he can draw upon to help get through to his players is a solid major league career that saw him earn a National League All-Star nod in 1994.

“I was where they want to go,” Garcia, a 45-year-old native of Venezuela, said by phone Friday from Buffalo. “It’s a long, long road to the big leagues, and not everybody’s going to make it. But I’ll be able to relay to them what they need to do to get to that level.”

Garcia first reached the major leagues for a four-game cup of coffee in 1990 with the Pirates, then played 12 games in 1991 and 22 in 1992. He was on the Bucs’ postseason roster for the memorable 1992 NL Championship Series against the Braves and went 0-for-1, batting in the second game of the series.

The 1990-92 seasons were the last glory days for baseball in Pittsburgh, three years when the Pirates won division titles.

“It was a strong team,” Garcia said, “and a really good experience.”

The Pirates haven’t had many good experiences losing for the last 20 years. And unfortunately for Garcia, he didn’t become an everyday player for the Bucs until 1993, which was the start of the franchise’s two-decade losing streak.

Garcia wasn’t to blame for the losing during his tenure with the Bucs, which ran through 1996. The team’s second baseman – taking over after Jose “Chico” Lind left for Kansas City in 1993 – Garcia was a solid player offensively and defensively. He batted .269, .277, .294 and .285 in his four years as the everyday second baseman, and he hit a career-high 12 homers in 1993.

Garcia was the Pirates’ lone All-Star in the 1994 game at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium and hit a single in his only at-bat.

He batted .266 in 610 big league games for the Pirates, Blue Jays, Angels and Padres, and that kind of successful playing career is something his Double-A players can respect from their manager.

“I think big league playing experience gives guys instant credibility,” Pirates assistant general manager Kyle Stark said. “I think it gives potentially some personal experiences to draw upon. But at the end of the day, he’s a guy that he can lead and motivate, and that’s what guys are going to get drawn to.

“A player wants to know: Do you care about me, can I trust you, can you help get me better? The fact that he played in the big leagues gives the impression that he can help get me better, but ultimately the player has got to answer in his own mind those questions. And that’s where the separator comes in whether a guy can be an impactful staff member or not.”

Garcia replaces P.J. Forbes, who spent the past two years as the Curve’s manager but is no longer with the Pirates’ organization. Hitting coach Ryan Long will return to Altoona, and the new pitching coach will be Stan Kyles, who replaces Jeff Johnson. Kyles spent the past 3 1/2 years as the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen coach.

Mike Zalno will be the Curve’s trainer for the third straight year.

Garcia managed the Pirates’ high-A Bradenton affiliate the past two seasons, going 134-140, so he’s familiar with most of the players who will be on the Curve this season. He also served as the Pirates’ first base coach in 2010 and was on the Seattle Mariners’ major league staff from 2005-07.

“Carlos’ vast playing and coaching experience, he brings a consistent professionalism in how he leads the guys,” Stark said.

“Carlos has shown in his role, whether that be as a coordinator or as an A-ball manager or in the big leagues, I think the players know he’s with them every day and is pulling for them. Those guys trust and know that Carlos is going to be there for them every day.”

Garcia said he understands what the minor league players are trying to achieve their goals, and he takes pride in helping them try to reach their maximum potential every day.

“I’m definitely going to hold guys accountable,” Garcia said. “If you want to play for me, you have to be able to come to the ballpark and be ready to play.”

Garcia said he most enjoys seeing the players’ “desire to learn, the responsibility, the way to be able to handle themselves, to work, the way they show me that they want to be able to get the job done.”