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Washington says Rangers will win

Washington says Rangers will win

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ron Washington wants to be on the field before a game. He even wants to throw batting practice to his hitters.

Why?

"My batting practice is awesome," Washington said. "I throw the best batting practice in the game."

He believes it. He also believes in the reason why free-agent pitcher Barry Zito should come to Texas.

"Because we're going to win here," Washington said. "I mean, if he wants to be on a team watching in October, he can go someplace else. I mean that with all my heart and soul. If I don't think I could win, I wouldn't be here.

"He knows the attitude that I project, and he knows when I say something that I'm going to do what I have to do to meet that challenge. He knows this. I would say, 'Welcome to Texas,' and believe me, at the end of [the season,] we won't be one of the 20-something teams watching it on TV, we'll be playing."

The Rangers' new manager is that confident. He has been on the job for a little more than a month, and general manager Jon Daniels still has much work to do in putting a team together, but Washington isn't worried about that. He's not afraid to make it clear that he expects the Rangers to be winners, and he's not talking about some long-term rebuilding project either.

He is confident it will happen much sooner than that, maybe even next season. Washington is not shy about saying that he has come to Texas to win.

"I'm very confident that it will happen," Washington said. "I wouldn't be sitting here and I wouldn't want to go into a season thinking that I didn't have a chance at the postseason. If it doesn't happen, I'll be shocked. It's just that simple.

"My whole goal is to get started in Spring Training and take it from there, just get them as prepared as I can possibly get them, teach them a great work ethic, make them believe in each other and execute the fundamentals. If we do that, we're going to win. I have no doubt about it."

Washington has been in baseball for 36 years. He has learned the game from Tommy Lasorda, Syd Thrift, John Hart, Dusty Baker and others. He was on eight winning teams and five playoff teams in Oakland.

He has waited a long time for this opportunity, he was confident it would come and he expects to be successful at it.

"I'm a baseball man, and I've been around winning for eight of my 11 years in Oakland, and nobody ever gave us a chance," Washington said. "So I know what can happen in a clubhouse when you have everybody pulling in the same direction. That's what I'm trying to do, and if I get that done, I have no doubt I'm going to win."

That's the message that he has spread to his players while trying to meet with them individually around the country. He has already been to the West Coast and Arizona, and he is planning a trip to the Dominican Republic in January.

He has listened to the players and heard what happened in here in the past. He knows about the divisions in the clubhouse and makes it clear he will tear down any walls between the manager's office and the players.

He will not allow that and he will not allow any chasms between the pitching staff and the offensive players. He talks about 25 players together with no doubt about who is in charge.

"I'm a player's manager," Washington said. "I will always be a player's manager because I was a player. I don't look at the game through rose-colored glasses. I know the difficulty. Everything that they experience, I've experienced as a player.

"I've been on the good side and I've been on the bad side, so when things are not going right for them, I know how they feel, and I've been through it, so I know what it takes to come out of it. I'll be there to make sure that we pave the way for them to have a chance to come out of their struggles, because in this game the superstars succeed three times out of ten, so why worry about the seven times you fail?"

His team could still use another starting pitcher, a center fielder and a right-handed bat. They have re-signed Vicente Padilla and picked up Frank Catalanotto, but have lost Mark DeRosa, Carlos Lee, Adam Eaton and Gary Matthews Jr.

They have interest in Jay Payton and Kenny Lofton as potential outfielders. Getting Zito would be huge, but it's far from a certainty. Washington is still patient waiting for Daniels to put together the team.

"My projected time is April 2nd," Washington said. "It's not December the 6th or January the 2nd or the 3rd. My projected time is April 2nd, and I trust my general manager and the people that are out there looking for players to fill the holes, [so] come April 2nd they'll supply me with what I need to go to war."

Washington wouldn't even be concerned if the Rangers don't get the guy they want and end up going with young players before they are ready. Remember, this guy interviewed for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager's job.

"I wanted to manage the Tampa Bay Devil Rays," Washington said. "I wanted to manage them for the young talent they had, because I'm a teacher. I'm not concerned about wins and losses because if I've got the talent and I can get to them and teach them how to play this game correctly, the wins and losses will take care of themselves."

Washington was asked about the advantage of playing the Athletics and knowing his players.

"I think it's going to give us an advantage because I do believe I know how to get those guys out," Washington said. "But the only way we're going to do that is if we have to match their pitching and their defense.

"I know. I know. I've been there, I don't miss anything. I may not say much, but I don't miss anything. I know. Now we've just got to implement it, we've just got to execute it."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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