The Pittsburgh Pirates finally have a new manager in Derek Shelton. Let’s take a closer look at Shelton and what he has done to get to this point.
Earlier today, new GM Ben Cherington and the Pittsburgh Pirates announced that they hired Derek Shelton as the 41st manager in franchise history. Shelton, 49, comes to Pittsburgh after serving last season as the bench coach for the Minnesota Twins.
After a search that involved a variety of different candidates from across Major League Baseball, the Pirates search came down to Derek Shelton and Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro. In the end, Cherington and company felt that Shelton was the right man for the job. So, who is the man who will lead the Pirates on the field?
Shelton has a wealth of baseball experience. He began his professional baseball career as a catcher in the New York Yankees minor league system. After an arm injury ended his playing career, he eventually managed in the Yankees minor league system for three seasons where he groomed several MLB players, including Robinson Cano.
In 2005, he got his first taste of becoming a major league coach after being named the hitting coach of the Cleveland Indians under manager Eric Wedge.
After serving as a hitting coach for the Indians for five seasons, the Joe Maddon led Tampa Bay Rays hired him to the same position following the 2009 season. He served in this role through 2016, making him the longest-tenured hitting coach in franchise history.
Following the 2016 season, Shelton was named the Toronto Blue Jays quality control coach for 2017, a role that he held for one season. There, he worked alongside current Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Ben Cherington. Cherington was the Vice President of Baseball Operations at the time.
Paul Molitor named Shelton his bench coach for the Twins in November of 2018. After the dismissal of Molitor at the conclusion of the 2018 season, Shelton was a candidate to be the club’s new manager, a position that ultimately went to Rocco Baldelli. Shelton remained the team’s bench coach under Baldelli, and the team won the AL Central after amassing a 101-61 record.
Shelton is a guy who has earned a great reputation from his coaches and players throughout the league, including Baldelli, the man he worked for this past season,
"“He’s wonderful with people. […] He’s a great baseball guy, too. Ultra prepared. Ultra organized. He has all of those characteristics that are important, but he knows how to bring them all together. He made everything work for us.”"
Derek Shelton appears to be the right man for the job. He is known for being able to blend the new-school thinking of baseball with the traditional style. He has worked with some of the best managers in the game in Joe Maddon, Kevin Cash and the 2019 AL manager of the year Rocco Baldelli. He was able to do this while working for three small-market teams, something that the Pirates likely sought.
The next step for Shelton is to fill out his staff. Bench coach Tom Prince and pitching coach Ray Searage were dismissed after the season, and assistant hitting coach Jacob Cruz took a position with the Milwaukee Brewers. He must decide if he wants to retain third base coach Joey Cora, first base coach Kimera Bartee and hitting coach Rick Eckstein while filling the vacancies listed.
Say what you want about Bob Nutting and the Pirates, but having Travis Williams, Ben Cherington and Derek Shelton on board is a very positive step in the right direction.