PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates named Derek Shelton the 41st manager in franchise history, completing a months-long search by installing a first-time manager in the dugout. But it wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say this will be Shelton’s first time in the manager’s office. As Minnesota’s bench coach, Shelton spent the
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates named Derek Shelton the 41st manager in franchise history, completing a months-long search by installing a first-time manager in the dugout. But it wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say this will be Shelton’s first time in the manager’s office. As Minnesota’s bench coach, Shelton spent the past year sharing responsibilities and an office space with Twins manager Rocco Baldelli.
“He was involved in pretty much everything that went on, from top to bottom,” Baldelli said. “There were very few times when I was in the office taking care of things when he wasn’t there.”
Now, Shelton will get an office of his own at PNC Park. The 49-year-old was hired to join new president Travis Williams and recently hired general manager Ben Cherington as part of the Pirates’ revamped leadership team.
“My family and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to join the Pittsburgh community and are humbled to be a part of this storied franchise,” Shelton said in a statement. “One of the most exciting things for me during the interview process was just how evident the passion for Pittsburgh and the desire to succeed was with everyone I interacted with.”
Shelton was certainly qualified for the job, bringing a wealth of experience to the table. Specifically, Shelton has been a part of successful small-market teams -- the kind that Williams has said the Pirates hope to emulate moving forward.
Shelton spent the past two years as the Twins’ bench coach, first under Paul Molitor and most recently alongside Baldelli with the 2019 American League Central champions. He spent 2017 as the Blue Jays’ quality control coach, a position in which he crossed paths with Cherington while he was in Toronto’s front office. Shelton served as the Rays’ hitting coach under manager Joe Maddon and Kevin Cash for seven seasons (’10-16) and worked as the Indians’ hitting coach for five years (’05-09) before that.
“He’s a guy that I believe in, in every way. He’s incredibly impressive. He’s wonderful with people,” said Baldelli, the 2019 AL Manager of the Year. “He’s going to establish those relationships and work with his staff. He understands the importance of all the people that are involved in making things go. On top of that, he’s a great baseball guy, too. Ultra prepared. Ultra organized. He has all of those characteristics that are important, but he knows how to bring them all together. He made everything work for us, and he did it with a great personality. He brings a lot to the table. I’m really happy for him, and I’m also really happy for the Pirates.”
Primarily a catcher before elbow surgery ended his two-year Minor League career in 1993, Shelton managed in the Yankees’ farm system for three years and won a pair of league championships from 2000-02.
“I have known Derek for more than 15 years and have great admiration for his passion for the game and players, work ethic, curiosity and desire to learn,” Cherington said in a statement. “He has worked and learned from some of the best in the game, and in turn has helped players and colleagues learn and improve during his 20 years of coaching and managing. We are confident Derek will help lead an elite playing and coaching environment at the Major League level and be a true partner to all of baseball operations as we challenge each other to get better every day.
“I want to thank our entire baseball operations group for their tireless work over the past several weeks of this search. We are thrilled to get to work with Derek and continue building toward a winning team in Pittsburgh.”
Shelton and Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro reportedly were the final two candidates for the job. The search began shortly after former president Frank Coonelly and former GM Neal Huntington dismissed Clint Hurdle on the final day of the regular season. Coonelly and the Pirates parted ways in October while Huntington interviewed a number of candidates in Pittsburgh before he, too, was let go by chairman Bob Nutting in late October. Cherington, hired on Nov. 18 to succeed Huntington, built on the groundwork laid by Huntington as he completed the managerial search.
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The timing may have been unusual, but the Pirates are confident in the group they’ve set up: Williams, the former Pittsburgh Penguins chief operating officer; Cherington, the former Red Sox GM with a background in player development; and Shelton.
Now, finally, the Pirates can begin their offseason work in earnest.
Cherington and Shelton must fill out Pittsburgh’s coaching staff, first by deciding the fate of the remaining staff: hitting coach Rick Eckstein, assistant pitching coach Justin Meccage, first-base coach Kimera Bartee, third-base coach Joey Cora, coach Dave Jauss and bullpen coach Euclides Rojas. The Bucs previously dismissed bench coach Tom Prince and pitching coach Ray Searage, and assistant hitting coach Jacob Cruz recently joined the Brewers in the same role.
Then the Pirates, coming off a 69-win season with the Winter Meetings less than two weeks away, must set out to either rebuild their roster with an eye on the future or dramatically upgrade the group they have in place.
Fortunately, Pittsburgh’s new manager has some experience in that department. In 2018, the Twins finished 78-84. This year, they won 101 games – a turnaround Shelton witnessed from inside the manager’s office.
“I very much look forward to developing a strong partnership with Ben and the baseball operations staff. It is going to be an exciting change of culture in our clubhouse,” Shelton said. “It is going to be a fun environment in which we will all be held accountable to each other. It will be a player-centric culture built on strong communication and relationships with our players, our staff and the entire organization. We will begin to establish those relationships this offseason prior to coming together as a team in Bradenton this February.”
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.