HOUSTON -- Jamie Quirk, who has spent the last two seasons as Astros bullpen coach, said Tuesday he's leaving the team to become bench coach for the Chicago Cubs under new manager Dale Sveum.

"It's just a great opportunity," Quirk said. "When Dale Sveum was interviewing, he asked me if I'd be interested if he gets any of the jobs, and he got the Cubs. I talked with [Cubs president of baseball operations] Theo [Epstein] and passed that test, and called [former Astros general manager] Ed [Wade] for permission and all that. I was excited.

"It's the Cubbies. Who wouldn't want that job? They have a very famous tradition in baseball, and it will be nice to be part of turning it around."

The appeal of the Cubs was one factor, but Quirk is eager for a chance to get back on the bench and stay more involved in the game. Most of the work he did during the season as bullpen coach was done in pregame meetings, and he worked in the bullpen during games.

"Pretty much, once the game started I was out of it," Quirk said. "I was looking forward to the opportunity to get back in the dugout and having more one-on-one with the manager and feeling like you're actually helping rather than sitting back and watching. I've done it many years before, and I kind of missed it."

The loss of Quirk punches a hole in the Astros' coaching staff, which was to return intact next season. Houston manager Brad Mills said he has a list of potential candidates to replace Quirk, but the team will likely have to get a general manager in place before filling that role.

"I'm very happy for him to get this opportunity," Mills said.

Quirk, 57, joined the Astros two years ago after working as a professional scout in 2009. Prior to that, he had served as bench coach for the Colorado Rockies for six years (2003-08) under then-manager Clint Hurdle. He began his Major League coaching career in 1994 as bullpen coach for the Royals, and he later served as bench coach.

"He was in a situation where after he was let go from the Rockies, he wanted to get back on the field, but was not able to for a year and jumped at the opportunity to come with us and get back on the field, and he did a good job," Mills said. "That job he did was recognized. He's going to the Cubs, and I wish him the best."

Quirk played in the Major Leagues for 18 years, appearing in 984 games, including 525 at catcher. He compiled a .240 career average with 43 home runs and 247 RBIs while playing for eight teams, including 11 years with the Royals. He was on the Royals' 1985 World Series championship team.