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Candidates emerge in Bucs’ skipper hunt

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Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins
Derek Shelton
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

It can’t really be called “shifting into high gear” yet, but names are beginning to be named in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ managerial search.

Contrary to what is opined elsewhere, a team like the Pirates is an intriguing proposition to a would-be manager, particularly one looking for his first job. Taking a team from worst to first, or at least the postseason, with a limited budget and talent pool looks excellent on a resume—just ask Joe Maddon, Ned Yost, or Rocco Baldelli.

So far, Jason Kendall, current Minnesota Twins bench coach Derek Shelton, and Mark Kotsay, the Oakland Athletics’ quality control coach, have been named as possible candidates to right the Pirates’ listing ship. All are relatively young, and none of them have managed at any level. What do they bring to the table?

Pirates Jason Kendall
Jason Kendall
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

With Kendall, it’s obvious—he’s got a solid history with the Pirates. Pittsburgh clings to its good sports memories, and Kendall made a few of them in his time on the team. Since his playing days ended, he’s been a special assignment coach for the Kansas City Royals, so he was able to observe the rebuilding process that ended in a World Series championship. Could he be the Joe Girardi of the Pirates? He says he’s interested, and nostalgia might get him at least a meeting.

2019 Oakland Athletics Photo Day
Mark Kotsay

Kotsay’s name has just been added to the mix. He was a solid but unspectacular journeyman player during his active career, and he and Kendall were teammates on the A’s 2006 team. Working with Billy Beane, he’s undoubtedly gained some sabermetric insights, and at 43, he straddles the line between old school and new. However, he’s supposedly also caught the attention of the San Francisco Giants, and as a California native, he may want to stick close to home.

Shelton’s playing days consisted of a few games in the Yankees’ farm system, but that hasn’t stopped him from having an impressive coaching career, almost all with small-market teams. He was right alongside Joe Maddon during Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays tenure, and he’s seemingly specialized in working with and improving young offenses. No one can deny his success with the Twins’ battery this season, which is why his name is coming up a lot on managerial wish lists. He definitely has the most coaching experience; it’s just a matter of time before he gets the call from a team.

More names will undoubtedly come up in the next couple of weeks as the postseason winds down, and so far, Kotsay is the only one that’s officially been contacted by the Bucs. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the Pirates’ manager auditions seem to be at the end of the beginning.