Former Altoona Curve manager Joey Cora is heading back to the big leagues.
The Pittsburgh Pirates announced earlier this offseason that Cora will be the club’s new third base and infield coach, his first coaching position in the majors since 2012.
“I was a little bit surprised when the Pirates called,” Cora said. “I didn’t expect it. I wasn’t looking for it, but it happened.”
Cora spent 11 seasons in the majors as an infielder with the Padres, Mariners, White Sox and Indians. He also has nine seasons of big-league experience coaching under Ozzie Guillen with the White Sox and Marlins.
In his only season with the Curve, Cora led the team to a 76-64 regular-season record and an appearance in the Eastern League postseason.
“The Pirates valued what I did in Altoona and they obviously think I can do it in the big leagues,” Cora said. “I hope to go there and help them win some games. I’ll always remember Altoona as part of my journey.”
Cora guided a roster that featured a handful of Pittsburgh’s most prized prospects in 2016, including outfielder Austin Meadows and shortstop Kevin Newman. Working in the big leagues, he said, is an entirely different task.
“When you manage in the minor leagues, it’s a little different because you’re trying to develop players, you’re trying to teach a little more in the minor leagues than in the big leagues,” Cora said. “In the big leagues, you’re just trying to help the players get as much as they possibly can, and trying to help the players to work and maximize their potential.”
He joins a staff that now also includes 2015 Altoona manager Tom Prince, who has been named as the Pirates’ bench coach, and 2006-07 Curve pitching coach Ray Searage, who has been Pittsburgh’s pitching coach since 2011. Cora said he and the rest of the staff want to make Pirates manager Clint Hurdle’s job easier.
“If at the end of the day, Clint has the same amount of hair as at the beginning of the year, then I think we’ve done our job,” Cora said.
Having a one-year introduction to the Pirates’ system under his belt, including working with the big league club in spring training last year, will help Cora with settling into his new role.
“It’s a matter of getting to know the people in the organization and how they run things here, which is a little different from where I have been before,” Cora said. “I got a chance to experience that. Knowing what the Pirates are all about and how they run things, getting to know the players, that will help me.”
Cora has experience as a third base coach with Chicago, and he was also the primary third base coach as Altoona’s manager in 2016. In his new role, Cora said be aggressive in bringing runs across the plate.
“We are going to try to score runs when we get on base,” Cora said. “Especially when we get on first, we are going to try and score on doubles. We feel that we have the personnel to do it. Scoring on base hits from second base. Ultimately getting home, that’s the most important thing. Somehow, some way.”
Cora helped lead the White Sox to a World Series championship in 2005 and his goal is to ultimately do the same in Pittsburgh.
“The city deserves a championship.”