Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Searage Has Work Cut Out

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Searage Has Work Cut Out

Article excerpt

Ray Searage is going into the final year of his contract as Pirates pitching coach. He says he wants to stay for the long haul because he enjoys the city, fans and organization. "I'd love to retire as a Pirate." The team wants to keep Searage because it knows how valuable he is. "He's special," general manager Neal Huntington has said. "That's such a crucial position." But you know how these things go sometimes. Searage will attract a lot of interest if he becomes a free agent. It's easy to see the Pirates declining a bidding war. If Searage does leave, it will be as bad as losing Mark Melancon or Francisco Cervelli.

Every pitching move the Pirates made in the offseason had Searage's name attached to it. The trade for Jon Niese? "Ray will make him better." The purchase of Kyle Lobstein? "Ray will make him better." The free-agent signings of Ryan Vogelsong, Neftali Feliz and Juan Nicasio? "Ray will make 'em all better."

"I embrace the challenge. I don't look at it as pressure," Searage was saying last week. "It's going to be a process. Neal and Clint [Hurdle] are aware of that. The big thing is to stick with it."

It's not surprising that Searage isn't afraid of the task ahead, the challenge of building a pitching staff that will keep the Pirates competitive with, at least on paper, a significantly lesser lineup after the losses of Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez. He was huge in the Pirates' three consecutive playoff appearances. Anyone can coach Gerrit Cole, a former No. 1 overall pick. But Searage extended A.J. Burnett's career and helped to make multi- millionaires of Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez and A.J. Happ.

"It's them, not me," Searage said.

Don't believe it.

For starters, Searage commands respect from his pitchers because he played the game, "had my spikes in the dirt," as he likes to say. He was 11-13 with 11 saves for four teams during a seven-year major league career.

The pitchers appreciate Searage's positivity. He's not afraid to get after one - "If I see someone feeling sorry for himself, I tell him, 'I don't play that game. Shut up and get to work' " -but, mostly, he builds constructively.

"I've been through the trials and tribulations," Searage said. "I've seen guys who are pitching poorly get the cold shoulder and, when you're pitching well, the coach is your best friend. I don't want my guys to ever feel like they're getting the cold shoulder from me."

Most of all, the pitchers love how hard Searage works. He gets to know each one individually. He works closely with team video coordinator Kevin Roach and will study tape for hours, comparing a pitcher's mechanics in good times and bad. He's always searching for ways to make his pitchers better.

"You want to be a good coach? Do your homework. …

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