What one mound visit says about Washington's philosophy

February 26th, 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.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- After relief prospect walked the leadoff hitter in a ninth-inning tie against the Dodgers in the first game of Spring Training on Saturday, Angels manager Ron Washington wasted no time heading to the mound.

But unlike most managers making a mound visit, Washington didn’t go out there to pull Jones from the game. Washington went out there to encourage him to throw strikes. And it worked, as Jones got through a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in an eventual 7-7 result.

“That was just to make him understand that he's the guy for the job,” Washington said. “Be the difference maker. If you toss the ball over the plate and make these guys hit it, my infielders want to make the play. And my outfielders will run it down. If they get you, they get you, but don’t put them on the bag. Make them get you. I can live with that, but I can’t live with someone throwing the ball all over the place.”

It’s part of Washington’s style as manager, as he said he’s not afraid to be the one to visit pitchers at the mound instead of pitching coach Barry Enright. Washington explained that if he has something to say, he’d rather be the one to do it than simply telling someone else what to say.

“I'm a proactive guy,” Washington said. “I can tell my pitching coach, 'Go out there and tell him this.' He can go out there and deliver it the way he wants to deliver. When I've got a message, I'm going to do it. That's who I am.”

Major League Baseball changed the rules this season to limit mound visits to four per nine innings, but Washington doesn’t think that will be an issue.

“I'm not worried about mound visits,” Washington said. “If I can stop some damage from happening, I'm not worried about any mound visits. I'm not sitting over there [thinking], ‘Well, you know, I've got two visits left.’ No, no, no. Because if I can stop stuff from happening, I'm going to try to stop it, because that might be the game right there.”

Washington added that he believes that his visit with Jones will be beneficial for the pitcher going forward as well. The 25-year-old lefty posted a 3.27 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 66 innings across three levels last year, including Triple-A Salt Lake. He also pitched in the Arizona Fall League.

Jones isn't on the 40-man roster. He is expected to open the year at Triple-A, but he is certainly on the big league radar.

“You never know when you can trigger something,” Washington said. “When I went out there, the kid was blank. But when I talked to him, he showed me what he’s made of. That's something he could carry with him for the rest of his life. His heart was coming out of his chest. If I touched him, my hand would go like that [and move]. But he settled down and showed what he’s capable of doing.”