Russell's future with Pirates unclear
The Pirates are holding internal discussions about the immediate future of manager John Russell, multiple major-league sources say.
While it is unclear whether Russell’s firing is imminent, the timing would make sense. The Pirates are in the middle of a transition in which they are promoting several of their top prospects to the major leagues.
Right-hander Brad Lincoln and outfielder Jose Tabata joined the team last week. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez, the team’s top young talent, will join the team Wednesday, according to a team news release.
Pirates team president Frank Coonelly, when reached for comment, denied that the Pirates were discussing Russell’s future.
Coonelly declined an opportunity to state that Russell would absolutely manage the club through the remainder 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."
The Pirates have lost nine straight games, dropping their record to 23-41, the worst in the National League.
The rivalry between Cleveland and Pittsburgh could compel the front office to make a move before this weekend's home series against the Indians.
Russell, 49, is in his third season as the team’s manager. His record is 152-234 (.394), and he has drawn criticism within the industry for his stiff, impassive demeanor.
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.