New deals for Huntington, Hurdle

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Pirates handed out a couple of contract extensions on Saturday, but not to players.

General manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle both received three-year extensions with a team option for 2018. They had both been working under contracts that were due to expire after this season.

Team president Frank Coonelly made the announcement, saying administrative detail work delayed having the extensions in place before the season began on Monday.

“I personally look forward to working with Neal and Clint for a long time to come,” Coonelly said.

The Pirates won 94 games last season, ending a streak of 20 losing seasons. They also reached the playoffs for the first time since 1992, winning the wild card game against Cincinnati before falling to St. Louis in the Division Series.

“It’s very humbling,” Hurdle said. “This has become a special place. It’s a great fit for me.”

Hurdle’s first two years with the Pirates ended in disappointment as the team collapsed in the second half of the season. Last season ended the streak and offered hope that the Pirates are prepared to sustain success with a widely-praised player development system.

Two years ago, Starling Marte reached the major leagues. Gerrit Cole was promoted to Pittsburgh last season. Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon are now on the horizon and projected as potential impact players.

“We’ve just begun,” Huntington said. “We’ve had one good season at the major league level. We still have to keep going. We had a great season a year ago. We have to put ourselves in a position to have as many great seasons as we can. I’m not looking back, I’m looking forward to how we can continue to grow.”

Huntington, 45, was hired on Sept. 25, 2007 to replace Dave Littlefield. He had worked as an assistant to the general manager in the Cleveland Indians organization.

Huntington’s early days were filled with missteps, including a terrible return when trading his biggest chip, Jason Bay. He also gave contract extensions to players like Ian Snell and Ryan Doumit, and hired the non-communicative John Russell as manager.

Huntington has learned on the job and reshaped the baseball department by building his own front office team. He said his next priority is working on extensions for some of his top assistants and department heads.

“We have a great group of people,” Huntington said. “Those are the next dominoes that need to fall. We have an opportunity to enhance our continuity.”

Hurdle, 56, managed the Colorado Rockies for almost eight seasons. He was the Texas Rangers’ hitting coach when the Pirates hired him to replace Russell for the 2011 season.

“I believe the positive movement started well before I got here,” Hurdle said. “It actually took a reclamation project. For three years, a lot of heavy lifting was done with no tangible evidence of success at this level, which makes it hard.

“So the timing worked in my favor. When I came in, I talked to people in the industry. I felt confident the next movement would take place here.”

The Pirates’ losing streak started under Jim Leyland. Gene Lamont, Lloyd McClendon, Jim Tracy and Russell all managed the Pirates without posting a winning season.

“I have a young general manager, younger than me, who is very smart, very sharp and very creative,” Hurdle said. “He’s made me better, and hopefully I’ve been able to add a level of experience from a different lens so that hopefully it’s a good fit for us.”

Financial terms of new agreements were not disclosed.

SUBHEAD: Interesting detail

Coonelly said he has not had a formal contract since his original agreement expired several years ago.

He said he is an “at will” employee of the Pirates, adding that he’s fine with that status and that kind of arrangement is not unusual for team presidents in MLB.