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Bucs pitchers eager to work with Meccage

New assistant pitching coach brings "breath of fresh honesty"
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- When the Pirates officially promoted Justin Meccage to their big league coaching staff on Dec. 1, left-hander Steven Brault quickly reached out to congratulate Pittsburgh's new assistant pitching coach.

"He's not a breath-of-fresh-air guy," Brault said. "What I told him is he's a breath of fresh honesty."

PITTSBURGH -- When the Pirates officially promoted Justin Meccage to their big league coaching staff on Dec. 1, left-hander Steven Brault quickly reached out to congratulate Pittsburgh's new assistant pitching coach.

"He's not a breath-of-fresh-air guy," Brault said. "What I told him is he's a breath of fresh honesty."

Coaching changes don't spark the same excitement as blockbuster trades or free-agent signings, but the Pirates seem particularly pleased about adding the 37-year-old Meccage. From the front office to the pitching staff, the Bucs are eager to have Meccage lighten the workload of renowned pitching coach Ray Searage, add another analytical mind to the mix and continue to forge relationships with their top young arms.

"That wealth of knowledge, that experience, the comfortable nature of coaching the players that we have in hand, another set of eyes," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Plus, we can have Ray actually mentor him coming up, as Ray was mentored [by former pitching coach Joe Kerrigan] when he first came on as part of a group of coaches. … I think he's going to add value to us. He's cutting edge."

General manager Neal Huntington said Meccage, previously a pitching coordinator and a Minor League pitching coach, will help Searage and bullpen coach Euclides Rojas process the ever-increasing volume of information necessary to prepare for each game. The club has staffed two hitting coaches, Jeff Branson and assistant Jeff Livesey, so why not two pitching coaches, as well?

Starter Jameson Taillon supported the idea and admitted he was surprised Pittsburgh didn't already have two pitching coaches, if only to cut down on the amount of work Searage and Rojas have been tasked with to oversee an inexperienced pitching staff.

Meccage previously worked with a number of their young pitchers, including starters Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl, during his time as a coach in Class A Advanced Bradenton and Double-A Altoona.

"Especially with us being so young, Ray, I'm sure he got some extra gray hairs last year if he's not all the way gray," Taillon said. "The amount of mound visits he made to make sure the game wasn't speeding up on us, the amount of time he was scouting and looking ahead to teams -- it's insane how much work that dude does. It's crazy."

And, yes, they know Meccage will be bluntly honest when the situation calls for it. Searage is beloved in Pittsburgh for his positive reinforcement; Pirates pitchers genuinely believe he is their biggest fan every time they take the mound, even if it's only for a between-starts bullpen session. Ask about Meccage, though, and you'll quickly hear about his intensity, the "breath of fresh honesty" that stuck with Brault.

"He's a guy that's going to tell you what you need to hear, whether you like it or not," said Brault, who worked with Meccage in 2015. "He's a little fiery. He gets in people's faces sometimes, and some people don't like that. But I think he brings something that is sorely needed.

"He is the way he is. He's just a fiery guy. I think it'll be cool to have that counterbalance."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

 

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