Last-place Pirates fire coaches Kerrigan, Varsho

The Pittsburgh Pirates fired pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and bench coach Gary Varsho on Sunday, saying they are no longer right for the staff.

The firings came as the last-place Pirates close in on a record-extending 18th consecutive losing season.

Kerrigan is a former Red Sox, Phillies and Expos pitching coach. He was replaced by his assistant, former major league pitcher Ray Searage. Varsho, a former outfielder with the Pirates, Phillies, Reds and Cubs, was replaced by minor league field coordinator Jeff Banister.

”Both Gary and Joe are quality baseball men who have worked hard during their time with the organization,” general manager Neal Huntington said. ”However, (manager) John Russell felt strongly, and I agreed, that they were no longer right for our staff and a change at this time was in the best interest of the club.”

Russell said that while he regrets losing two friends, it is necessary for the Pirates to accomplish something this year before heading into next season.

While the Pirates’ bullpen has been the team’s strength most of the season, the starting pitching has regressed. Huntington recently was critical of changes made to top prospect Brad Lincoln’s mechanics while in the majors that led to a drop in velocity and a return to the minors. Lincoln was 1-4 with a 6.57 ERA in nine games with Pittsburgh.

The Pirates also allowed Charlie Morton (1-9, 9.35 ERA in 10 games) to struggle for weeks before sending him back to the minors. Ross Ohlendorf (1-9, 4.23) has been a disappointment after going 11-10 last season and left-hander Zach Duke (5-10, 5.32) has given up 142 hits in 108 1-3 innings.

Going into Sunday’s game with Colorado, Pirates starters were 21-58 with a 5.38 ERA.

Despite winning two of the first three games of the four-game series against Colorado, the Pirates have lost 19 of 28. They have been at least 30 games below .500 every day since July 30.