Derek Shelton faces defining season as Pirates’ manager


It is no secret that the Pittsburgh Pirates have been one of the more miserable franchises in professional sports for the last few decades. Derek Shelton was looking for an opportunity to manage in the big leagues when the Pirates hired him as their manager in November 2019.

Shelton spent some time in various organizations in different roles. He landed with the Pirates ready to take over a team that clearly needed some new guidance in their rebuild.

A team ready to contend likely would’ve looked for an experienced manager but the Pirates chose to allow their manager to grow with their team. The Pirates’ roster moves and loud words have shown that they’re ready to take the next step toward respectability in a town that craves a winning baseball team.

A lot of their success will come down to manager Derek Shelton and how he handles the team.

Derek Shelton Faces a Defining Season as Pirates Manager

There’s been plenty of hardships and frustrations with Shelton over the first three years of his tenure. It’s easy to heap blame on the manager if things aren’t going well. But there’s a different story in Pittsburgh.

Penny-pinching owner Bob Nutting doesn’t allow for much in the way of payroll.  And general manager Ben Cherington can only work within those constraints. This leaves Shelton with the players that he’s given. Across his three seasons as the on-field manager, it’s been tough sledding in the way of personnel.

Now, Shelton has a nice core of players including Bryan Reynolds, Oneil Cruz, and Ke’Bryan Hayes. Although, Reynolds’ future with the team is in question after trade demands over his contract negotiations. The pitching staff includes a potential breakout candidate in Mitch Keller and a young, touted prospect in Roansy Contreras. David Bednar, one the better closers in baseball when healthy, is the backend presence for the young Buccos team.

Shelton no longer has the excuse of a team devoid of talent. And because of this, his on-field decisions will be watched more closely.

On-Field Moves Will Be Under Careful Watch

Some of the criticism around Derek Shelton in his young career has been his inability to manage a pitching staff. Shelton often leaves his starters in a bit too long and tends to pull them early with low pitch counts despite their success.

Shelton faced a lot of criticism for allowing Bednar to toss 2.2 innings and through 43 pitches in a June regular season game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Not too long after, Bednar struggled and found himself on the injured list for nearly two months. Bednar isn’t a volume reliever and usually does well just coming in during the ninth and shutting it down.

Shelton took a lot of the blame for Bednar not being the same for the remainder of the season. He’ll likely be more careful about how he deploys Bednar in 2023.

With Reynolds already disgruntled, Derek Shelton will have to make sure that he handles that situation as well.

The Pirates may not be ready to make a run at the playoffs. However, they look like they’ll take a leap toward competing this season. Shelton’s performance will dictate their success in 2023 and if he proves incapable of handling what comes with being a formidable ball club, he may find himself looking for work next season.

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

Players Mentioned:

Bryan Reynolds, Oneil Cruz, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, David Bednar