PITTSBURGH -- General manager Neal Huntington said before the Pirates' final game of the season that manager Clint Hurdle's entire coaching staff would return next season, and the club made it official on Thursday.Pittsburgh's coaches will be in the dugout for the next two years after their contracts were extended
PITTSBURGH -- General manager Neal Huntington said before the Pirates' final game of the season that manager Clint Hurdle's entire coaching staff would return next season, and the club made it official on Thursday.
Pittsburgh's coaches will be in the dugout for the next two years after their contracts were extended through the 2019 season. That includes bench coach Tom Prince, coach Dave Jauss, first-base coach Kimera Bartee, third-base coach Joey Cora, hitting coach Jeff Branson, assistant hitting coach Jeff Livesey, pitching coach Ray Searage and bullpen coach Euclides Rojas. Bullpen catchers Heberto Andrade and Jordan Comadena will also return in 2018.
Huntington and Hurdle previously received four-year extensions through the 2021 season. On Oct. 1, Huntington said the Bucs planned to bring back their coaches but acknowledged they must improve after consecutive losing seasons.
"We recognize that we as an organization, myself included, need to be better, top to bottom, bottom to top," Huntington said. "But this is a coaching staff that is committed to helping these players get better, that is committed to outstanding preparation, that is committed to helping them execute to the best of their abilities and then reviewing what went well and what didn't go well.
"This is a hard-working, talented coaching staff. We as an industry are all too quick to anoint gurus and want to fire coaches when the team doesn't produce. And it's a group effort. It's a collective effort."
The Pirates took a significant step back offensively this season, hitting a combined .244/.318/.386 despite finishing with the National League's third-lowest strikeout total. They ranked 11th in stolen bases, 13th in the NL in runs and OPS and 14th in batting average, home runs and slugging percentage.
Huntington and Hurdle have pointed to absences and injuries as the main culprits behind their offensive drop-off. Jungho Kang did not play all season because he could not acquire a work visa. Starling Marte was suspended for 80 games. Gregory Polanco (108 games played) and Francisco Cervelli (81 games played) were limited by injuries.
"Our hitting coaches were really good hitting coaches when we were a top-five offense -- when we're a top-half offense. They're still really good hitting coaches," Huntington said Oct. 1. "They work their tails off and do a nice job."
The Pirates posted a 4.22 ERA this season, seventh-best in the NL after ranking ninth in that category last year, despite leaning heavily on a young rotation. By fielding percentage (.984), this was the Bucs' best defensive season since 2013. They also improved their Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating total (15, their highest since '14) and Ultimate Zone Rating (minus-3.9, their best since '13).
"Ray Searage continues to be a really good pitching coach. Our infield/outfield play continues to improve," Huntington said. "Our coaches worked really hard to get the most out of what they're given, and that's a testament to them."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.