The Pirates won’t be bringing back pitching coach Ray Searage or bench coach Tom Prince in 2020, as per a team announcement. No other coaching changes were announced, as such decisions will be made in conjunction with the hiring of the team’s new manager. After the Pirates fired former skipper Clint Hurdle, it seemed a foregone conclusion that a larger shake-up was coming to the team’s staff, with Searage saying earlier this week that he wasn’t expecting to return next season.
Both Searage and Prince were longtime fixtures in the Pittsburgh organization, with Searage boasting 17 years of experience as a minor league pitching and (since 2010) the Major League pitching coach. Prince has an even longer track record in the Steel City, spending parts of seven seasons with the Bucs as a player and then working as a minor league manager and coordinator from 2005-16 before assuming bench coach duties prior to the 2017 season.
It wasn’t long ago that Searage was considered arguably the best pitching coach in all of baseball, as several veteran pitchers found their careers rejuvenated after coming to Pittsburgh. Names like A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ all enjoyed renewed success under Searage’s tutelage, and the Bucs’ ability to unearth hidden pitching gems was a big part of the team’s three consecutive postseason appearances from 2013-15.
Searage shared his thoughts on his dismissal, his hesitant embrace of the analytics movement, and the Pirates’ disappointing 2019 season as a whole in a wide-ranging interview with Rob Biertempfel of the Athletic (subscription required). Searage initially believed that he would continue to work as pitching coach in 2020 and “then I would fade off into the baseball clouds as a special assistant and that would be it.” That said, Searage has “no regrets and I’m not angry. It’s part of baseball.”
It’s hard to necessarily project what the Pirates could be looking for in a new bench coach or pitching coach until a new manager is hired. Based on Searage’s comments, it could be that the Bucs hire a pitching coach more specifically attuned to analytics, though it isn’t clear if that was necessarily the reason for why Pirates pitching struggled — as Biertempfel points out, the 2019 Pirates were hampered by injuries and poor defense. As for the bench coach role, that position is usually filled by a close confidant of the manager, or an up-and-coming-manager type of coach that the organization wants to deploy in a more high-profile position.