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Bucs fire athletic trainers, keep coaches

The Pirates have fired their top two athletic trainers but will keep their coaching staff intact.

All of manager Clint Hurdle's assistants -- bench coach Jeff Banister, third base coach Nick Leyva, hitting coach Gregg Ritchie, bullpen coach Euclides Rojas, pitching coach Ray Searage, first base coach Luis Silverio and major league coach Mark Strittmatter -- will return for the 2012 season, a team source said. An announcement likely will come Monday.

General manager Neal Huntington said Saturday the organization did not renew the contracts of head athletic trainer Brad Henderson and assistant Mike Sandoval, who have a combined 35 years' experience with the organization.

"In no way should they be viewed as scapegoats," Huntington said. "I want a different approach, a different skill set, a different environment in our medical department. I want a shift in philosophy in how we approach the medical side of things."

The status of strength and conditioning coordinator Frank Velasquez and physical therapist/rehab coordinator Erwin Valencia will be determined after a new head athletic trainer is hired. Velasquez, who has worked nine years for the Pirates, was asked to apply for the assistant athletic trainer job.

Henderson joined the Pirates in 2002 after working 15 years as assistant athletic trainer for the St. Louis Cardinals. In November 2008, Henderson and his Pirates staff received the Dick Martin Award, given annually to MLB's top medical staff by Baseball Prospectus.

Sandoval spent 25 years with the Pirates' organization and was named the major league club's assistant trainer/major league rehab coordinator in 2008. He was an athletic trainer in the Pirates' farm system from 1987-2000.

The Pirates were racked by injuries to several key players this season. Kevin Correia and Paul Maholm, the top two members of the starting rotation, ended the season on the 60-day disabled list. First baseman Derrek Lee and outfielder Jose Tabata played hurt for more than a week before being diagnosed with small bone fractures in their hands.

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