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Pirates pregame: Ray Searage will return. What about rest of Clint Hurdle's staff?

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, 11:30 a.m.
Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage talks with reliever Daniel Hudson and catcher Chris Stewart after the Cubs scored during the ninth inning Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage talks with reliever Daniel Hudson and catcher Chris Stewart after the Cubs scored during the ninth inning Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, at PNC Park.

MILWAUKEE — Yesterday, we discovered that pitching coach Ray Searage has agreed to an extension that will keep him around through the 2019 season. His contract had been set to expire after this season.

Searage's current deal was for two years. Some — not all, I am told — of manager Clint Hurdle's staff are on contracts of the same length.

Management generally is tight-lipped about the status of the coaches. Last weekend, after he and Hurdle got four-year extensions, GM Neal Huntington gave a vague "we're working on it" kind of response when asked about the coaches. If Searage's deal was done but not revealed, it could mean the front office is waiting until the fates of each coach is decided before making a general announcement. Nothing wrong with that.

So, what about the rest of Hurdle's lieutenants? The Pirates are on pace for a second straight losing season and had essentially tumbled out of the division race by mid-August. It would not be surprising if changes are made.

I want to stress that I haven't (as yet) gotten indications about the status of any coach other than Searage. So what follows is educated speculation.

Searage's renewal means there's a very good chance bullpen coach Euclides Rojas also will be back. They're a good tandem and Searage often has made a point to send credit Rojas' way when things are going well.

I also expect first base/outfield coach Kimera Bartee, third base/infield coach Joey Cora and bench coach Tom Prince to get extensions. All three joined the big league staff this season.

Cora eventually could be lured away if another team would offer a manager or bench coach job. Bartee has a good rapport with the players, but his duties with the outfielders were made difficult by Starling Marte's suspension and Gregory Polanco's rash of injuries. It's tough to coach up guys who are never on the field. Prince, who turned 53 last month, clearly is being groomed as the eventual replacement for Hurdle, who will be 64 when his contract expires.

Coach Dave Jauss would seem to have a job here as long as he wants one. The bench coach until this year, Jauss has been a conduit between Hurdle and the front office and has implemented many of the analytical advances the team has used.

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli jokes with hitting coach Jeff Branson during batting practice before a game against the Giants Friday, June 30, 2017, at PNC Park.

Photo by Christopher Horner

 

Hitting coach Jeff Branson and assistant hitting coach Jeff Livesey might be on the bubble. The Pirates rank 10th in the NL in on-base percentage; 13th in runs scored and OPS; and next-to-last in hits, home runs, total bases, batting average and slugging percentage.

Josh Bell struggled out of the gate, surged in July and August, and has scuffled some lately. Andrew McCutchen has not maintained the momentum he showed for two months earlier this season. Last night, when the Brewers threw a bullpen game and used seven different pitches, the Pirates racked up 11 strikeouts and managed only six hits.

TODAY'S GAME

Pirates at Brewers, 8:10 p.m. ET at Miller Park, Milwaukee. TV: AT&T SportsNet. Radio: 93.7 FM, 1450 AM, 1480 AM

PIRATES (68-78): Starling Marte 7, Adam Frazier 4, Andrew McCutchen 8, Josh Bell 3, David Freese 5, Jordan Luplow 9, Elias Diaz 2, Jordy Mercer 6, RHP Tyler Glasnow (2-6, 7.45)

BREWERS (76-69): Lineup TBA RHP Chase Anderson (9-3, 2.93)

LOOKING AHEAD

> > THURSDAY: Off

> > FRIDAY, 7:10 p.m. ET at Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati: Pirates RHP Chad Kuhl (7-10, 4.21) vs. Reds RHP Homer Bailey (4-8, 7.26)

> > SATURDAY, 4:10 p.m. ET at Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati: Pirates RHP Ivan Nova (11-13, 4.25) vs. Reds RHP Sal Romano (4-6, 4.54)

> > SUNDAY, 1:10 p.m. ET at Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati: Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole (11-10) vs. Reds RHP Robert Stephenson (4-5, 5.45)

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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