No strife in Pittsburgh: John Russell, Neal Huntington got contract extensions

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On the heels of this morning’s business concerning John Russell and the Pirates comes a statement from team president Frank Coonelly that General Manager Neal Huntington and Russell each got contract extensions over the winter and thus all of this speculation about Russell being in trouble needs to stop:

As you know, we have respectfully declined to
discuss publically the contract status of our non-player personnel. 
While I continue to believe that internal understandings regarding
goals, expectations, standards, performance and progress towards meeting
those goals are far more productive than public votes of confidence or
public discussions about the years remaining on an employee’s contract,
it is clear that the desire to ascertain the number of years that remain
on our manager’s contract has become and will remain a distraction,
precisely the result we sought to avoid by declining to discuss such
matters.

As a result, while we have demonstrated in the
past that a contract will not prevent us from making a change if one is
appropriate and thus contract status truly is irrelevant, we will
confirm that during the off-season we exercised the Club’s 2011 option
on JR’s contract and added a fourth year (2011) to Neal’s contract.  We
did so because we believed that they were successfully implementing the
organization’s vision of building a baseball organization that could
compete for championships on a consistent basis.

So that’s that. I suppose I’ll know I’ve hit the big time when my reports cause team brass to issue refutations in press-release form like this.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.