Jeff Banister will be introduced Friday morning as the Texas Rangers’ manager after edging out front-runner Tim Bogar and Kevin Cash for the full-time duty of replacing Ron Washington.
Banister, a longtime Texas resident, joins the Rangers after spending four seasons as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bench coach under Clint Hurdle, the Rangers’ hitting coach in 2010 and someone whom members of the Rangers’ front office came to admire during their time together in Colorado.
Under Hurdle, Banister was heavily involved in statistical analysis and involved as much as a big league coach can be in the Pirates’ minor league system.
He also was part of a organizational philosophy that allowed for input from the front office and scouting department for the big league club, something that appeals to general manager Jon Daniels.
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Daniels, though, also said that Banister has an ability to get the Rangers back to winning after a dismal 95-loss season, and that was first on the Rangers’ wish list in their new manager.
“As we went through it, Jeff really impressed us across the board,” Daniels said. “I’d never met Jeff before the interview process. What immediately stands out when you meet him is the presence. You can understand how he can command a room. His interest in the things he doesn’t know is impressive to me, and that’s probably why he’s as prepared as he is.”
Banister, 50, was born in Weatherford, Okla., but he went to La Marque High School in southeast Texas, Lee College in Baytown and the University of Houston. He overcame cancer in high school and temporary paralysis after a home-plate collision in college to become the Pirates’ 25th-round pick in 1986.
“He’s a survivor in every sense of the word,” Daniels said. “When you’ve got life experience like that, I’ve got to imagine it provides unbelievable perspective.”
Banister had one big league at-bat, a pinch-hit infield single in 1991, and had spent all 29 years of his career in the Pittsburgh organization until the Rangers plucked him from a group of eight candidates.
One of them was Bogar, who spent 22 games as the interim manager after Washington’s abrupt resignation. The Rangers went 14-8 to close the season, a mark that put Bogar into the favorite’s position.
“Unfortunately, you’re only going to hire one guy,” Daniels said. “It wasn’t a situation of Tim or anybody else ‘losing.’ It was really a case of Jeff winning the job.”
Bogar has a year left on his contract as bench coach.
Third-base coach Gary Pettis, though, is out, and others could also be departing. Pettis has agreed to join the Houston Astros’ coaching staff, and hitting coach Dave Magadan has interviewed with both New York teams.
Pitching coach Mike Maddux, one of the eight candidates for the manager’s job, will meet with Banister before a decision is made on his status. Maddux’s contract expires at the end of the month, as do the contracts of bullpen coach Andy Hawkins and first-base coach Bengie Molina.
“He’s not going to have anyone on his staff that he doesn’t want,” Daniels said. “The next step with Tim and everybody on the staff is have Jeff be able to connect with them and spend some time with them. I just want to make sure it’s a healthy situation, and if it is, we’ll move forward with Tim on the staff.”
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Banister, who lives in League City, takes over a team that was ravaged by injuries and a lack of depth, but the Rangers expect to be a contender again in 2015 after failing to win 90 games for the first time since an 87-win season in 2009.
The Rangers, though, have significant areas to address this off-season. Daniels said that he will attempt to lure a free-agent starting pitcher to boost a rotation that has injury concerns. Martin Perez (Tommy John surgery) won’t be available until the All-Star break, and fellow left-hander Matt Harrison (back surgery) might be forced to retire.
Daniels, though, doubts the Rangers will play at the top of a market that includes left-hander Jon Lester and right-handers Max Scherzer and James Shields.
The offense also needs a boost from outside the organization. The Rangers likely will not be picking up their $14 million option on right fielder Alex Rios, and first baseman/designated hitter Mitch Moreland is a candidate to not be tendered a contract.
Former Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz can be a free agent, though he and Baltimore are reportedly interested in a contract extension. The Rangers held a private workout last month for Cuban free agent Yasmany Tomas, an outfielder with power and a big arm.
Veteran outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Torii Hunter could be attractive on one- or two-year deals until a crop of outfield prospects is ready for the majors.
Family: Wife, Karen; daughter, Alexandra (19) and son, Jacob (12)
High school: La Marque, Class of 1982, where he played baseball, football and golf. Was a quarterback and linebacker on the football team.
College: Lee College (Baytown), Houston (1985-86)
Career: Selected by the Pirates in the 25th round of the 1986 June free agent draft and has spent his entire career with the organization. … Batted .247, hit 37 home runs and 204 RBIs in 515 minor league games. … Only big league appearance was as a pinch hitter with the Pirates on July 23, 1991, when he singled off Atlanta’s Dan Petry. Was a minor league manager from 1994-98, going 299-330, with stops at Welland in the New York-Penn League, Augusta, Lynchburg and Carolina.
Personal: Has battled bone cancer and osteomyelitis (an infection of the bone or bone marrow). … Was the first recipient of the Gilda Radner Courage Award (1991-92). Received the “Pride of the Pirates” award in 2011 for demonstrating sportsmanship, dedication and outstanding character during a lifetime of service.