MIAMI -- Matt Walbeck, who led the Pirates' Double-A affiliate to an Eastern League Championship this year, will not be returning as Altoona's manager in 2011.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said the decision not to retain Walbeck was made after the organization determined that there would be no immediate promotion available to offer him. According to Huntington, Walbeck had expressed interest in moving up in the organization.
"We discussed with Matt that we would not have an upper-level opportunity for him at the end of the year," Huntington said. "During the course of the conversation with [farm director] Kyle [Stark], it became apparent that it was best just to let him go ahead and explore other opportunities elsewhere. We certainly appreciate everything Matt has done in his two years here, and I wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.
"As far as getting into the reasons behind why we made the decision that there wouldn't be an upper-level opportunity for him in the following year, that doesn't benefit anyone, certainly not Matt and not the Pirates. Out of respect of the process, we'll withhold comments on that. Matt has worked hard and deserves having success elsewhere."
Huntington was asked if the decision to part ways with Walbeck was the organization's choice or if it was Walbeck's decision.
"I wasn't a part of the conversation," Huntington said, noting that it was Stark who spoke with Walbeck on Wednesday night. "But when it became apparent that we weren't going to have an upper-level opportunity for him, with our blessing, we gave him the freedom to look elsewhere. It is certainly something he wanted to explore."
This was Walbeck's second season with the Curve and his fifth as a Minor League manager. An Altoona club devoid of many prospects finished 62-80 under him in 2009 before going 82-60 this year. Altoona recently defeated Trenton to claim its first championship.
Walbeck, whose teams have advanced to the postseason in five of his six seasons as manager, was named Eastern League Manager of the Year after the season.
Maholm to miss final start due to knee irritation
MIAMI -- Following the Pirates' 11-9 loss on Thursday, the club announced that Paul Maholm will be unable to make his scheduled start against the Marlins on Friday due to left knee irritation. Daniel McCutchen will take the mound in Maholm's place.
This setback means that Maholm is done for 2010, his final start having come in the team's home finale last Sunday. The left-hander, who was seeking to become the Pirates' only 10-game winner this season, finishes the year with a 9-15 record and 5.10 ERA.
Maholm, who was not available for comment after the Pirates made the pitching change announcement, has had problems with his left knee before. He had surgery on it years ago and was hampered by soreness in that knee for part of the 2009 season.
This is the first start that Maholm will miss this season.
For McCutchen, this will be his ninth start of the year for the Pirates, though his first since Aug. 25. Since then, McCutchen has pitched out of the bullpen. He didn't throw more than 32 pitches in any of his nine relief appearances in September, so he will limited in how deep he can go on Friday.
McCutchen pitched in relief against Florida twice earlier this season and tossed a scoreless inning in each appearance.
Presley impressing Bucs with his versatility
MIAMI -- Alex Presley's ascension from Double-A to the Majors has already been one of the more notable stories in the organization's Minor League system this year. But even though Presley has already reached the top level of the system, he hasn't stopped leaving an impression.
In a sample size of just 19 at-bats entering Thursday's game, Presley has six hits since being called up to Pittsburgh in September. That's not what has primarily caught manager John Russell's eye, though. Presley has been used multiple times as a pinch-runner or late-inning defensive substitution, and it's with such versatility that Presley could carve a niche for himself beyond this year.
"It's nice, because when he's not playing, I look down on the bench and I've got a weapon," Russell said. "He can do some things to help you win a game. He gives you a good at-bat. He gives you some speed and can play defense. He's a guy you look down on the bench and you like having him around because he can help win a game for you because there's a lot he can do."
Looking ahead to Presley's future in the organization, it's hard to see him denting a spot as a regular outfielder in Pittsburgh. Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata are set to be long-term fixtures, and the Pirates would prefer a right fielder with more power.
But Presley does profile as a potential complementary piece because of his speed and defensive ability. Though Presley will likely start 2011 in Triple-A, he'll head into Spring Training in competition for one of the Pirates' extra outfield spots.
Right-hander Jeff Karstens has been cleared to pitch out of the bullpen during the final series of the season against the Marlins. Manager John Russell said he would like to have Karstens pitch an inning or two before the end of the season. ... Outfielder Lastings Milledge (strained left oblique) has begun taking batting practice again this week. However, it appears doubtful that he'll be healthy enough to play before the end of the year. ... Pittsburgh entered Thursday having recorded an extra-base hit in 41 consecutive games. That marks the longest such stretch since the club had an extra-base hit in 44 straight games in 2008. ... Despite ranking 14th of 16 National League teams in total home runs hit, the Pirates have out-homered opponents, 37-28, since Aug. 18.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.