PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates denied Friday they’ve chosen Cleveland Indians special assistant Neal Huntington as their next general manager, saying their search is ongoing.
Pirates president Frank Coonelly, on the job slightly more than a week, issued a statement that the club has not made a hiring he called the most important the club has made in years.
“It is too early to comment on possible candidates for our general manager position,” Coonelly said. “We have had numerous interviews with multiple candidates, all of which would make for an excellent choice.
“As I have stated in the past, this is an extremely critical hire. It is important that we find the right person for the general manager position who can move our baseball operations forward.”
The Beaver County Times, citing unnamed baseball sources, reported Friday that the Pirates had settled on the 37-year-old Huntington. He is an adviser to Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, specializing in player evaluations. He also works as an advance scout for a portion of the season.
Huntington, who would be a surprise choice by Pittsburgh, formerly was Cleveland’s assistant director of minor league operations and the club’s player development director. He was also an Indians assistant GM.
Huntington was the Indians’ executive who recommended acquiring outfielder Milton Bradley, who was obtained by Cleveland in 2001 but was dealt days after a spring training blowup with manager Eric Wedge in 2004.
The Pirates have not commented on their search until Coonelly’s statement on Friday. They have asked all candidates to not talk with the media.
Among those the Pirates sought permission to talk with were Mets vice president Tony Bernazard and Milwaukee Brewers special assistant to the GM Jack Zdurienick, a former Pirates executive.
Pirates interim general manager Brian Graham is not being considered for the job.
The Pirates, finishing a 15th consecutive losing season, fired former general manager Dave Littlefield after six-plus seasons on Sept. 7. They hired Coonelly, formerly Major League Baseball’s senior vice president and chief labor counsel, on Sept. 13 and placed him in charge of the GM’s search.
Once a general manager is chosen, he is expected to replace manager Jim Tracy. Tracy is under contract for 2008 but is nearing a third consecutive 90 losses-plus season — one with the Dodgers and two with Pittsburgh. Tracy was a Littlefield hire.