The Pirates have agreed to a two-year extension with renowned pitching coach Ray Searage, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Searage, who is widely touted as one of the top pitching coaches in the game, was on a contract that expired at the end of the current campaign but is now locked up through the 2019 campaign. The Pirates have gained a reputation for revitalizing pitchers coming off down stretches, thanks to the resurgences of arms like A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, Edinson Volquez, Ivan Nova and Juan Nicasio, among others. Searage and former special assistant Jim Benedict — he’s now with the Marlins — receive a great deal of the credit for those successful reclamation projects. Biertempfel’s report also includes “educated speculation” on the fates of the rest of recently extended manager Clint Hurdle’s coaching staff, so Bucs fans will want to check it out in full.
Here’s more out of the Steel City…
- Left-hander Jack Leathersich spoke to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the late waiver claim that sent him from the Cubs organization to the Pirates as well as his quick return from Tommy John surgery. Perhaps predictably, given the abbreviated nature of his rehab period, the 27-year-old Leathersich struggled upon his initial return. “I was back in games in 10 months, but I just couldn’t recover,” Leathersich tells Brink.“So I’d throw and then the next two days were pretty miserable.” As Brink notes, however, Leathersich clearly got stronger as the season carried on; he didn’t allow a run and posted a 29-to-10 K/BB ratio over his final 18 innings with Triple-A Iowa before being designated for assignment and claimed by Pittsburgh.
- Brink also writes that Jung Ho Kang has a roster spot in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, but it’s not yet clear if he’ll get approval to play there this offseason, as he’s still on the Pirates’ restricted list. Kang has still been unable to obtain a work visa to enter the United States on the heels of this past offseason’s DUI arrest — his third DUI charge in his native South Korea. Bucs skipper Clint Hurdle said he’d travel to the Dominican Republic to meet with Kang in person and watch him on the field if he is indeed cleared to play, per Brink.
- Injured catcher Francisco Cervelli still hopes to return this season, MLB.com’s Adam Berry writes. Cervelli took batting practice and ran today but has yet to be able to crouch behind the plate as he recovers from an ailing quadriceps. As Berry notes, the team’s preference would be to allow Cervelli to enter the offseason feeling healthy and confident, which is also why they’ve opted not to shut down Gregory Polanco, who recently returned from a hamstring issue. Cervelli is in the first season of a three-year, $31MM contract and has been limited to 81 games with a .249/.342/.370 slash line in 2017.