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Pirates reward GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle with extensions

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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Clint Hurdle (right) and Neal Huntington (left). (AP)

The Pittsburgh Pirates snapped a 21-year stretch of losing baseball by finishing 94-68 and reaching the postseason as a wild card team in 2013. It was the result of a long, drawn out rebuilding plan orchestrated and patiently played out by general manager Neal Huntington. The plan was later solidified with the hiring of 2013 Manager of the Year Clint Hurdle, who brought his own style of hard-nosed baseball to the dugout.

It's a winning combination for Pittsburgh, and with the ship officially righted, they'll hope to continue moving in the right direction by establishing continuity at the top. On Saturday, the team announced that both Huntington and Hurdle have received three-year contract extension to remain in their roles through the 2017, with club options for 2018 included.

Pirates President Frank Coonelly made the announcement a few hours before their scheduled game with the St. Louis Cardinals and commented in the team's press release:

"Neal and Clint have led a team of baseball professionals, in the front office and on the field, that has transformed the Pittsburgh Pirates into a club that again must be reckoned with in the National League," said Coonelly. "We are extremely pleased that they will continue to lead this team in Pittsburgh."

"I have a tremendous amount of personal respect and appreciation for the impact that Neal, Clint and their staffs have had on our organization," said Pirates Chairman Bob Nutting. "My expectation has been and remains that they, led by Frank, will continue to play a lead role in our success for years to come."

Huntington, 45, took over a 68-win team at the end of the 2007 season and immediately began the long, tenuous rebuilding process. That led to some lean years, as the team's win totals dipped to 67, 62 and 57 over the next three seasons respectively. However, a 15-game turn around in 2011, which coincided with the hiring of Hurdle, was the beginning of an upward trend as new stars like Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker emerged. In fact, in 2012, Pittsburgh was all of the buzz in MLB as they reached 13 games over .500 as late as Aug. 19.

That squad ran out of steam, finishing 79-83, but the table was clearly set for the breakthrough which occurred in 2013.

Hurdle, 56, is entering his fourth season with Pittsburgh and his 12th season managing overall. He went through a similar process during his eight seasons with the Colorado Rockies, managing them through lean years from 2002-2006 before they emerged and reached the World Series in 2007. His experience and understanding of that process likely helped his transition to Pittsburgh, where he took over a team that was just getting ready to hit its stride. Now it's all about sustaining that success — which Hurdle's Rockies struggled to do in 2008 — and eventually overcoming the St. Louis Cardinals. With Huntington behind him, he should be much better positioned to do that than he was with Colorado's dysfunctional front office.

It's just a good fit for everybody. The Pirates recognize it, and they're rewarding those who helped make baseball prominent again in Pittsburgh.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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