The Pirates announced Monday that they’ve fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein. An interim replacement was not named, though assistant hitting coach Christian Marrero is remaining with the club.
“We are grateful for Rick’s dedication to the team and our players,” general manager Ben Cherington said in a press release announcing Eckstein’s dismissal. “This was a difficult decision as we have a great deal of respect for Rick. Making the decision now gives us the opportunity to use the rest of the season to focus on improvements in our hitting program while also starting the process of looking for a replacement. We wish Rick all the best moving forward.”
The older brother of former big league infielder David Eckstein, Rick Eckstein has been with the Pirates since being hired on Nov. 26, 2018. He’d previously served as a coach both at the NCAA level and in the Majors (Nationals, Angels). At the time of his hiring in Pittsburgh, he’d spent the two prior seasons serving as the Twins’ minor league hitting coordinator. Eckstein was one of two coaches on the Pirates’ Major League staff whose hiring predated that of current general manager Ben Cherington and manager Derek Shelton — the other being third base coach Joey Cora.
“I appreciate Rick’s tireless work ethic and his passion for our players,” Shelton said in today’s press release. “Despite the challenging season, Rick always put in the effort to connect and help our players. He is a great person who we will all be rooting for in his next opportunity.”
While the hitting coach certainly isn’t solely responsible for a team’s offensive woes (or its successes), the Pirates’ offensive ineptitude in 2021 has nevertheless been glaring. Pittsburgh ranks last in the Majors with 470 runs scored, and they rank 27th, 25th and 30th in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, respectively. The Pirates’ team .233/.304/.362 batting line has resulted in an MLB-worst 81 wRC+, and no team has hit fewer than their combined 101 home runs.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reported Eckstein was being dismissed shortly before the team made its formal announcement (Twitter link).