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Rangers make bullpen change, exercise '19 option on Banister

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Stephen Hawkins, AP

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are making adjustments to manager Jeff Banister's staff, which will no longer include bullpen coach Brad Holman after a rough season for the relievers.

Holman's contract option for 2018 is not being exercised by the Rangers. Hector Ortiz, the team's first base coach the last three years, will take over as the bullpen coach and continue his role as catching instructor.

"An ex-catcher who communicates very well with a pitching staff, who sees and thinks situationally with the approach of pitching and different situations throughout the game," Banister said of Ortiz. "I think it just adds a different element to this group."

Texas also exercised its 2019 option on Banister's contract Wednesday. When he joined the Rangers, Banister got a three-year contract with an option for 2018. That option was exercised last year when he got a reworked contract that added the 2019 option.

Pitching coach Doug Brocail, third base coach Tony Beasley, bench coach Steve Buechele, hitting coach Anthony Iapoce and assistant hitting coach Justin Mashore are expected to return next season. The team said major league field coordinator Josh Bonifay also will return, but in a role to be determined that could be at the major or minor league levels.

Banister has a 261-225 record over three seasons in his first managerial job. The Rangers were AL West Division champions his first two seasons but missed the playoffs this year with a 78-84 record, largely because of the bullpen woes, though they weren't eliminated from wild card contention until the 157th game.

Holman had been the bullpen coach the last two seasons. Before that, he spent seven years as a pitching coach in the Rangers' minor league system, with stops at Low-A Hickory, High-A Myrtle Beach and Triple-A Round Rock.

"By no stretch are we putting the bullpen struggles on Brad," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We all came in thinking we were going to have one of the better bullpens in the league. We thought we had one of the better pens. We weren't alone."

After leading the majors with a club-record 56 saves in 2016, the Rangers this season had only 29 -- the second-lowest total in the majors. They converted 29 of 50 saves -- that 58 percent success rate the second-lowest in the American League. Relievers allowed a majors-high 40 percent (104 of 263) of inherited runners to score.

Sam Dyson, who became the closer in 2015, lost that role after blowing his first three save opportunities two weeks into the season. He was designated for assignment in June before getting traded to San Francisco.

Hard-throwing Matt Bush, who has discussed with Ranger officials the possibility of becoming a starter, also had a stint as the closer before left-hander Alex Claudio was used primarily in that role late in the season.

Rangers release Fielder

Prince Fielder has been released by the Rangers, more than 15 months after playing his last game and still owed about $72 million over the next three seasons.

The Rangers reached a settlement with the company that insured the contract. Daniels said Wednesday that he couldn't discuss details but it allowed the team to release Fielder and free up a spot on its 40-man roster.

Fielder had to quit playing in July 2016 after his second cervical fusion in his neck in just over two years. He didn't formally retire, and the Rangers kept him on the roster to receive disability insurance payments that covered part of his salary.

Texas during the season had Fielder on the 60-day disabled list, which doesn't count against the roster limit. But there is no 60-day DL during the offseason, and he would have had to go back on the 40-man roster again like he was last winter.

Fielder got a $214 million, nine-year contract in 2012 from Detroit, which traded him to Texas after two seasons. The Tigers owed Texas $6 million this year, another $6 million in 2018 and $7 million in each of the following two years. The Rangers are responsible for the remainder.