PITTSBURGH (AP) -Neal Huntington, a former Cleveland Indians assistant general manager who was moved to a mostly scouting role two years ago, was hired Tuesday as the Pittsburgh Pirates' general manager.
The 37-year-old Huntington replaces Dave Littlefield, who was fired earlier this month after failing to produce a winning season since being hired in July 2001. The Pirates are finishing up a 15th consecutive losing season, one short of the major league record, and their fifth with 90 or more losses since 2000.
``We will systematically work to change the culture of this organization and to return it to a consistent winner,'' Huntington said. He was referring to a recent remark by Pirate principal owner Bob Nutting that the once-successful franchise needed to return to a ``culture of winning.''
Huntington once worked under Littlefield in the Montreal Expos' minor league system and under current Pirates interim GM Brian Graham with Cleveland.
Huntington was the surprise choice of new Pirates president Frank Coonelly, who has been on the job less than two weeks. Coonelly settled on Huntington quickly, even though the Pirates were the only major league team currently seeking a general manager and their field of candidates was deep.
``Neal is extremely intelligent, analytical and driven to succeed,'' Coonelly said. ``He shares my vision on how to transform the Pirates into an organization that can constantly compete. Equally important, Neal knows how to implement the changes, systems and philosophies required to accomplish that goal.''
Huntington formerly was the assistant general manager to the Indians' Mark Shapiro, but had dropped behind vice president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and assistant general manager John Mirabelli in importance among club executives. Another Indians executive, Steve Lubratich, interviewed recently with the Houston Astros before they hired Ed Wade as general manager.
In 2005, Shapiro said Huntington accepted a different role because Antonetti's skills were in the management and administrative side, while Huntington's were in evaluation and scouting. Huntington was one of the Indians' three primary advance scouts.
Huntington is a graduate of Amherst, as is former Red Sox and Expos general manager Dan Duquette, and has a master's degree in sports management from Massachusetts, as does Littlefield.
Now in his 16th season in professional baseball, 10 with the Indians, Huntington broke in with the Expos in 1992 and later became their assistant player development director. He joined the Indians in 1998 an assistant director of minor league operations and was promoted to player development director the next season.
While running Cleveland's farm system, Huntington ``instilled a holistic developmental philosophy that focused on the systematic development of the person as well as the player,'' according to his official Indians biography.
He was later promoted to assistant general manager, but his title was special assistant to the general manager when he left the Indians. He also worked extensively on the club's new spring training complex in Arizona.
Huntington is among the newer breed of executives who rely heavily on statistics and number-crunching before making decisions.
As a scout, Huntington said he didn't hesitate to text message someone during a game if he thinks he can offer pertinent advice.
``There have been a couple of times I've watched games on TV, and I've sent a voice mail or a text message to our staff because I just picked something up,'' he wrote in September 2005 article for ESPN.com.

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