Pirates narrow manager search to Clint Hurdle, Jeff Banister

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Pittsburgh put its manager search on hold until after the World Series in order to interview Texas hitting coach Clint Hurdle, and now Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that the Pirates are down to Hurdle and in-house candidate Jeff Banister as the finalists for the job.

Banister has spent 25 years in the Pirates’ organization, including eight years as minor league coordinator before becoming John Russell’s bench coach in August. Russell was fired last month.

Hurdle, who managed the Rockies from 2002 to mid-2008, is considered the favorite for the job. He took Colorado to the World Series in 2007, but that was Hurdle’s lone winning season and he finished with an overall record of 534-625 for a .461 winning percentage.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.