Notes: Pirates filling out coaching staff

Notes: Pirates filling out coaching staff

PITTSBURGH -- After conducting more than a week of interviews, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell filled out half of the Pirates' six coaching slots on Tuesday.

The Pirates stayed within the organization in naming Tony Beasley the team's new third-base coach and will be bringing in Gary Varsho as the team's bench coach and Luis Dorante to serve as the new bullpen coach.

A former Pirates outfielder, Varsho returns to Pittsburgh after spending one year as Cleveland's outfield and baserunning coordinator. Varsho's season with the Indians came after he spent five seasons as the Phillies bench coach. Varsho, 41, also has five years experience as a Minor League manager.

"He brings a tremendous personality, a tremendous passion and energy," Huntington said of Varsho, who will be an asset in helping with outfield and baserunning instruction. "When John Russell and I brought our lists [of candidates] together, Gary was on both. He can really add experience and has been a Major League bench coach before."

Varsho's playing days took him to four different teams, including the Pirates from 1991-92 and again in 1994. Known as one of the best utility players during his eight seasons in the Majors, Varsho compiled a .244 average in 571 career games.

Beasley makes the jump to the Majors after spending the last season as the Pittsburgh's Minor League infield coordinator. The 2007 season marked his first back with the Pirates organization after a one year hiatus in which he was the third-base coach for the Nationals.

"He brings a lot to the table in terms of discipline, energy and an ability to teach," Huntington said.

Having had a gamut of coaching instruction, Beasley will likely fit in as the infield and/or baserunning instructor once the coaching staff is completely filled out.

Beasley's association with the Pirates goes all the way back to 1992. He played in the organization's Minor League system back in the early '90s and went on to manage within the Pirates farm system for five seasons. In four of those five managerial seasons, Beasley, 40, led his club into postseason play, including in 2004, when he managed the Curve into the Eastern League championship series.

As for Dorante, a former catcher, the 39-year-old Venezuelan will assist Russell as a catching instructor as part of his duties as the bullpen coach.

Dorante leaves a Marlins organization that he has been with for the past six years. Dorante has experience as a Major League bullpen catcher, having served in that capacity for Florida in 2005. Sandwiched around that year in the Majors, Dorante put in a total of five years as a Minor League manager in the Marlins farm system.

His most recent season was spent managing the Class A Jupiter Hammerheads. Prior to joining the Marlins organization, Dorante spent a combined seven years as a manager and coach in the Expos farm system, which is where he and Huntington first crossed paths.

"In Montreal, I watched him with respect as to how he handled young players and the discipline he brought," Huntington said. "He is another guy who brings a tremendous amount of experience to the staff."

The Pirates have three coaching vacancies left to fill -- hitting coach, pitching coach and first-base coach. While two of those vacancies may be filled as early as Wednesday, it may take Huntington and Russell a little bit longer to make a decision on the team's next first-base coach.

"That third spot has been a little more difficult than anticipated," Huntington said. "With the hires we made today, we have a variety of skill sets already. We're looking for someone with a skill set that is different so that we can allow Gary to be as focused on his duties as a bench coach as possible."

Roster update: Also on Tuesday, Huntington made some player moves in order to set the team's 40-man roster. He had until midnight on Tuesday to finalize the roster and ensure protection for players the Pirates do not want to lose in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement signed a year ago, teams have four years after signing a player 19 years old or older to put them on the 40-man roster or they risk losing them in the Rule 5 Draft. For players 18 and younger, teams have a five-year window. The Rule 5 draft will take place on Dec. 6 at the Winter Meetings.

The Pirates added shortstop Brian Bixler as well as right-handers Olivio Astacio and Ronald Belisario to the roster. In order to make room for the three, left-hander Shane Youman, first baseman Josh Phelps and right-hander Josh Sharpless were all designated for assignment.

"These were very difficult decisions," Huntington said. "They were ultimately business calculated risks. We looked at the likelihood of certain guys being claimed. We looked at the league-wide need. Ultimately, we wanted to protect guys with the greatest upside."

The final spot on the team's 40-man roster was filled by adding right-handed pitcher Jimmy Barthmaier, whom the Pirates received on an irrevocable waiver claim from Houston on Tuesday. Barthmaier, 23, spent last season pitching for the Astros' Double-A Corpus Christi affiliate, where he went 2-9 with a 6.20 ERA in 24 games (16 starts).

The addition of Bixler to the 40-man roster comes as no surprise, as the highly touted prospect is going to be fighting for a spot on the big league roster next spring. Bixler, who just finished playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, hit .274 with five homers, 23 doubles, 51 RBIs and 28 stolen bases for Triple-A Indianapolis during the regular season.

Both Astacio and Belisario spent their first seasons in the Pirates farm system last year after being signed as Minor League free agents following the 2006 season.

Astacio climbed from low Class A Hickory to Double-A Altoona, posting a cumulative 4.93 ERA while striking out 91 in just 65 2/3 innings. A native of Venezuela, Belisario split the year between high Class A Lynchburg and Altoona and finished with a 1-3 record and 3.97 ERA in 37 games.

"They both have plus fastballs and a very high upside," Huntington said. "We know that they haven't performed up to those abilities yet, but we think that with some help to their deliveries these guys have the potential of being back end of the bullpen type of pitchers."

Tuesday's announcement ended Phelps' tenure in Pittsburgh, as the Pirates now have 10 days to trade or release the first baseman. As for both Sharpless and Youman, the Pirates have two options. They can either trade the pitchers or outright them to the Minors, before which both would have to clear waivers.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.