MLB

Some within Pirates org want change

FOX Sports By Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi
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While Pirates club president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington say they are not talking about firing manager John Russell, not everyone with the Pirates agrees that Russell should keep his job.

Sentiment exists within the organization, both above and below Coonelly and Huntington, that Russell should be dismissed, according to multiple major-league sources.

Some members of the ownership group want to make changes to demonstrate to fans the franchise’s commitment to winning, according to a source with knowledge of ownership dialogue.

Among the options under discussion, the source said, is replacing Russell, who has drawn criticism within the industry for his stiff, impassive demeanor.

If Bob Nutting, who owns approximately 75 to 80 percent of the Pirates, is part of those discussions, he has not discussed firing Russell with Coonelly and Huntington, according to another source.

Thus, no change appears imminent, and Russell could last the entire season if the team shows improvement following the promotions of Alvarez, right-hander Brad Lincoln and outfielder Jose Tabata.

The Pirates, however, have lost nine straight games, dropping their record to 23-41, worst in the National League. If the team’s performance continues to slide, particularly during a three-city trip at the end of the month, then Russell could be in greater jeopardy.

Russell, 49, is in his third season as the team’s manager. His .393 winning percentage record is 152-235 (.393), and the Pirates have not exercised his option for the 2011 season.

Coonelly declined an opportunity to state Tuesday night that Russell would absolutely remain manager for the rest of the season, but added, “We fully expect that John will be part (of) our return to winning baseball this season and I hope that he is able to do his job without rumors being circulated by unnamed sources.”

Bench coach Gary Varsho, Triple A manager Frank Kremblas and Double A manager Matt Walbeck would be the leading internal candidates to replace Russell on an interim basis.

Former Indians manager Eric Wedge, who previously worked with Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, in Cleveland, would be one long-term possibility, sources say. Cardinals bench coach Jose Oquendo could be another.

Tagged: Pirates

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