Pirates Fill Out Their Front Office

PITTSBURGH—Neal Huntington has the reputation of being thorough and the Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager showed that by taking six weeks to fill the key positions in his front office.

Huntington announced Wednesday the hiring of Greg Smith as scouting director and Kyle Stark as player development director. Baseball operations assistant Bryan Minniti was promoted to baseball operations director and will serve as a defacto assistant GM.

"It takes a lot of things off my plate," said Huntington, who had also been handling a lot of the scouting and player development director duties since being hired Sept. 25 and subsequently firing Ed Creech and Brian Graham from those jobs.

"I'm very excited about the front-office team that we've put together. I think these are good people with a lot of good ideas. It will be a cohesive group, everyone committed to making the Pittsburgh Pirates a winning organization again, but also a group that has people that will challenge each other and be willing to step outside their individual boxes."

The Pirates have been boxed in by losing for 15 consecutive seasons, one short of the major-league record set by the Philadelphia Phillies from 1933-48. However, the Pirates have undergone a thorough housecleaning with Huntington taking over for the fired Dave Littlefield, Frank Coonelly replacing Kevin McClatchy as chief executive officer and John Russell being hired on Monday to replace Jim Tracy as manager.

Part of the Pirates' problem has been their inability to procure and develop young talent, particularly position players.

While the Pirates' top three starting pitchers, Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell and Paul Maholm, and closer Matt Capps were drafted and developed by the Pirates, the organization hasn't developed an impact hitter since signing third baseman Aramis Ramirez, now with the Chicago Cubs, as a free agent from the Dominican Republic in 1995.

Huntington is hoping that track record will improve with the addition of Smith, who spent the last 11 seasons in the Detroit organization.

Smith, 41, was the Tigers' scouting director from 1997-2004 and also simultaneously served as their player development director from 2000-02. He has been a special assignment scout the last three years for Detroit and also was an area scout for six seasons with San Diego from 1990-96.

"Greg has unique experience as he has been both a scouting and player development director," Huntington said. "He really understands the challenges of the minor-league staff and also the challenges of the amateur scouts. You really need cohesiveness between the scouting and player development departments and it's great to have someone who has worked on both sides."

Stark, 29, also has experience in both scouting and player development as he spent the last four years in the Cleveland organization assisting in both areas along with major-league operations. He most recently has been the assistant farm director for two years while also overseeing the Indians' scouting in the Pacific Rim and coordinating their advance scouting.

"I've known Kyle since he first came into the Indians' organization and he is an extremely bright guy with a great knowledge of the game," said Huntington, who spent the past nine years working for Cleveland. "He has been exposed to many different parts of baseball and to a lot of different people, and he really brings a broad base of experiences to this job."

Minnitti, 27, has spent seven seasons in the Pirates' front office and will specialize in baseball's complex waiver and transaction rules while also preparing salary arbitration cases and overseeing the information technology program.

"Bryan has reached the point in his career where he is certainly deserving of the chance to take on added responsibility," Huntington said.