No room for a winner


MIAMI — Matt Walbeck’s career aspirations have cost him his job as manager of Double-A Altoona.

Late last night, farm director Kyle Stark called Walbeck to tell him he will not return to Altoona in 2011.

“It caught me off guard,” Walbeck said this afternoon by phone. “Kyle basically said it was time for us to go our separate ways.”

In their second season under Walbeck, the Curve went 82-60 and won their first Eastern League championship. Walbeck was named the league’s manager of the year.

GM Neal Huntington told me the Pirates let Walbeck go because they had no openings for him at either the Triple-A or major league levels.

“We want all our staff members to go on to bigger and better things,” Huntington said. “In this instance, we didn’t have anything for him. We certainly appreciate everything Matt has done for us the past two seasons. We felt it was best to allow him to pursue other upper-level opportunities.”

Walbeck won minor league championships three times while managing for four years in the Detroit Tigers system.

“I’ve always done the best I can, knowing that one day I’ll get back to the big leagues,” said Walbeck, who was the Texas Rangers’ third base coach in 2008. “I hadn’t decided yet what I wanted to do (next year). The Pirates probably sensed that I wanted to advance and probably felt this is best for my development and growth.”