Washington gives Angels 'just what they need'

April 1st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BALTIMORE -- After just one series in Baltimore, it’s already become clear that the Angels’ routine and preparation is going to look a lot different this year under new manager Ron Washington.

The Angels held a full team workout at Camden Yards on Friday’s off-day after Opening Day on Thursday, as Washington said he has a young team and he wanted to keep the blood flowing. And after Saturday’s tough 13-4 loss, Washington held a team meeting to reinforce the message that it’s only two games and there’s a process to becoming a good team. And even on Sunday, the Angels had full infield practice before a day game and a getaway day, which is rare these days.

The message appeared to come across after opening the year with back-to-back blowout losses, as they played much better in Sunday’s 4-1 win. And Angels players are buying into Washington’s tactics and believe it’ll pay off in the long run.

“I think it's great every single thing Wash has done so far,” said left fielder Taylor Ward. “I love it. And it might just be what we need.”

Washington said he felt it was necessary to address the team on Saturday, because he didn’t want them to get off track mentally this early in the season.

“I think it was important because I don't want them to get caught up in the fact that we're not playing baseball the way we’re capable of playing baseball,” Washington said. “I don't want them to get inside of themselves. I want them to be free and I want them to know that if we keep coming out here and working that things will take care of itself. That was the point.”

He added that the workout on Friday was planned, as it wasn’t something they decided to do after their 11-3 loss in the regular-season opener. Washington is considered the game’s best infield instructor and hosting extra infield practice and workouts will be commonplace.

“What we're doing right now is what we're going to be doing as long as there’s baseball,” Washington said. “It’s not something we’re doing because something might not be right or things are going wrong. This is going to be our routine. And it's been our routine since the day we arrived in Spring Training, and we just got to continue our routine.”

Washington said he’s been encouraged by the attitude of his players and said their early struggles haven’t been due to a lack of effort. So that’s why he said his message was a positive one on Saturday and not a stern one.

“There will come a time when you gotta give a kick in the pants, and there comes a time when you gotta love,” Washington said. “All of it is a part of baseball. But I have no reason to kick them in the butt. They are trying. They want to do well. They really want to do well. It's not like they don't want to. Sometimes they can overdo it. We are just trying to find that happy medium where we relax and just play the game. That's all they want to do. It's in their heart and we will eventually get it right.”

He pointed to the fact that he saw the Orioles grow from afar, as they were one of the worst teams in baseball in 2021 (52-110) before turning it around and winning 101 games last season. He said he fully believes the Angels will soon be on a similar path.

“We're gonna be on that trajectory,” Washington said. “We don’t think, we will be. But we have to stay in the process, we have to work, we have to learn, we’ve got to apply. That’s what the game of baseball is about: work, learning and applying. And we’re going to do that.”

Washington cautioned that he didn’t mean the Angels are in the process of rebuilding the way the Orioles did, but he said they’re just an example of a team that learned to win over time as their younger players developed.

“They're different than us, but you have to start somewhere,” Washington said. “We got a lot of youth that's out there. And every time they go out there is a learning experience. And they just have to learn how to be able to deal with the ups and downs and let their assets grow. We’re not going to stop working, we’re not going to stop getting after baseball. And somewhere along the line we can find who we are, what we can do and then we'll be consistent.”