The Pittsburgh Pirates completed their leadership makeover Wednesday, hiring Derek Shelton to be their new manager.
Shelton spent the past two seasons as the Minnesota Twins‘ bench coach. This will be his first major league managerial job.
“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,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said in a statement.
Shelton’s previous stops include a season as quality control coach for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017 — his tenure overlapping Cherington’s stint as Toronto’s vice president of baseball operations — and seven years as a hitting coach with the Tampa Bay Rays. Shelton broke into the majors as hitting coach for the Cleveland Indians from 2005 to 2009, and he has managed in the New York Yankees‘ minor league system.
Cherington added that Shelton “will help lead an elite playing and coaching environment at the major league level and be a true partner to all of baseball operations.”
Shelton, 49, said in a statement that he wants to facilitate a “player-centric culture built on strong communication and relationships with our players, our staff and the entire organization.”
He replaces Clint Hurdle, who was fired in September amid the franchise’s worst season (69-93) since 2010.
The Pirates hired Cherington to be their general manager earlier this month and named Travis Williams as their new president in October.
Shelton filled the eighth and final managerial vacancy, joining Joe Maddon (Angels), Joe Girardi (Phillies), David Ross (Cubs), Jayce Tingler (Padres), Mike Matheny (Royals), Carlos Beltran (Mets) and Gabe Kapler (Giants). Beltran was the only racial minority hired.
Shelton inherits a team that finished below .500 in three of the past four seasons, though the on-field product during a miserable 25-48 second half proved to be just part of Pittsburgh’s issues in 2019. Relievers Keone Kela and Kyle Crick were suspended for their roles in separate dustups with members of the team’s coaching and support staff. All-Star closer Felipe Vazquez was arrested in September on felony charges stemming from an alleged sexual assault of a minor.
Cherington said shortly after his hiring that the Pirates need to do a better job of continuing to develop players once they reach the major leagues. Owner Bob Nutting expressed frustration at seeing former Pirates prospects flourish elsewhere, including Rays outfielder Austin Meadows and pitcher Tyler Glasnow.
Amid the losing, there were bright spots. First baseman Josh Bell became an All-Star while hitting 37 home runs. Rookie outfielder Bryan Reynolds hit .314 and finished fourth in National League Rookie of the Year balloting, and shortstop Kevin Newman hit .308 in 130 games after being elevated to the starting role following an early season injury to Erik Gonzalez.
The pitching staff, however, is in tatters. Ace Jameson Taillon is out for 2020 after Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow for a second time. Pittsburgh finished with a team ERA of 5.18, next to last in the NL and 26th in the majors.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.