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Winter Meetings interview with Ron Washington

Q: There was a report today that you guys are maybe getting a little close with Josh Hamilton. Do you have any personal update on that, and just what are your thoughts about where things stand with him and being able to re sign him?

RON WASHINGTON: I don't have any information to add to whatever the rumors were that you heard. I think we've just got to let the process play out.

Q: There was a report today that you guys are maybe getting a little close with Josh Hamilton. Do you have any personal update on that, and just what are your thoughts about where things stand with him and being able to re sign him?

RON WASHINGTON: I don't have any information to add to whatever the rumors were that you heard. I think we've just got to let the process play out.

Q: Can you talk about just losing Mike Napoli and what is the impact of losing his bat?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, it's always an impact when you can lose a bat that supplies you with power, and hopefully with that power he supplies runs. But we've always been a group of guys that go between the lines, and we play for each other. We'll move on, and hopefully someone else can pick up the slack. And we wish Mike Napoli all the luck in the world.

Q: What kind of guy is he on and off the field?

RON WASHINGTON: Tremendous. He's got a tremendous character. He's a winner. It's unfortunate that things didn't work out here, but we do wish him well in Boston.

Q: What is your assessment of your catching situation at this point?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, you know, we signed Soto, and we're still looking. So as of right now, we've got some young kids that have come into camp and will compete for some jobs. And between now and the time we break camp April 1st that situation should be stabilized.

Q: In a perfect world, Soto would catch about how many games for you?

RON WASHINGTON: In a perfect world, I figure maybe about 130.

Q: Really? So you could consider him your starting catcher?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, as of right now, he's the only catcher. So if I had to say today about him being the only catcher, he'll start and I'll be his backup.

Q: Is your plan right now for him to be the starter or are you looking for a guy to start the majority of games?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, right now I think we'd just better let the process play its way out and see what we acquire. But as you said, as the roster stands right now, Soto is the guy.

Q: Texas Rangers are close to signing Joakim Soria. What do you think about that and what are the plans with Soria?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, that hasn't been announced yet, so I hope that happens soon so you can come back with your camera and ask me again.

Q: It could be great, no, for the bullpen?

RON WASHINGTON: He's a tremendous pitcher.

Q: You guys will have the Astros in the AL West next year, which is a change for the Astros especially. Do you see that as being a rivalry right now or is it going to take time and they have to start winning games?

RON WASHINGTON: I think it'll be a rivalry. We're both in Texas, and hopefully it'll be good for the fans in Houston to come up to Arlington and good for our fans to take a drive down to Houston. You know, they're young, they're up and coming. And hopefully with Bo Porter there, they can get to a point where they play a brand of baseball that will make everyone in the Texas area, especially between Houston and Arlington, excited about coming to see both teams play. I'm looking forward to it, and as of right now, you know, just trying to see what type of team we can put together. And then when that time comes to start playing Houston, I'll get excited.

Q: Did Ian Kinsler get converted to first base?

RON WASHINGTON: I think Ian Kinsler is an athlete that can be converted to anything.

Q: Would there be any particular challenges that he would face?

RON WASHINGTON: Right now Ian Kinsler is our second baseman. I'm not thinking about first base. But what I'm saying to the question you asked, he can be converted to anything.

Q: Can he catch?

RON WASHINGTON: Probably could. He's a good athlete.

Q: We talked about the base runners, and I don't want to go over that, but are you and Gary Pettitte going to coach any different this spring in terms of construction?

RON WASHINGTON: No, we're going to approach the way we've always approached it, aggressively, and hopefully we can corral our erraticness that we had last year. But we're going to run the bases with reckless abandon, the way we've always done it. And hopefully through the things that didn't work out this past year, we gain experience from it. Sometimes you've got to go through bad times to get to the good times. But our approach as far as the way we're going to run bases, it will not change.

Q: Have you and Gary had a chance to discuss yet what went on?

RON WASHINGTON: Gary and I talked about a lot of things, and we both know what we have to accomplish to tighten that part of our game up, and our players know what they have to do to tighten that part of our game up. But our intent from day one is to take the shackles off and let them go and let them play baseball. That's the way we do it in Texas.

Q: Assuming that (inaudible) gets past this and he's ready to go in Spring Training, what did you see from him last year? What more do you want to see from him coming in? What did you talk with him maybe about working in the offseason on?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, what I seen was quite impressive. The game of baseball does not scare him, and that's a tough attribute for a young kid to already have, and he certainly has it. The game doesn't scare him, and because the game doesn't scare him, that means he won't be taken aback by adversity because in this game it's full of adversity, and if you can't handle adversity, then this game will eat you up. I don't think the game will eat him up, especially how he feels about the game of baseball, and experienced players, but not only players but coaching staff that he will have him around, we will not let him fail. He's quite an impressive kid.

Q: As we sit here, second day of the Winter Meetings, and you've got the possibility that Profar will be on your roster, that Kinsler is on your roster, that Young is on your roster, that Andrus and Moreland is on your roster, what challenges do you is there going to be a way to get all those guys on the field or at bats?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, some of those guys you named, they show up every day to play. Some of those guys are going to have to get at bats other ways. In between now and April 1st, we'll figure that out. But right now to say completely what my plans are, I think we've just got to let it play its way out. Did you say Beltre?

Q: I said Beltre.

RON WASHINGTON: He's my everyday third baseman.

Q: I'm just numbering all your infielders.

RON WASHINGTON: That's depth. That's depth.

Q: What role do you see for Michael Young?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, right now I think we'd just better see when we get into Spring Training and see how things play its way out. Michael is a part of this team, and as far as I'm concerned he'll continue to be a big part of this team. I mean, we've just got to wait and see because you know, as you mentioned earlier, there's some youth that's going to be infused, and we've just got to wait and see how that process works.

Q: What do you make of the season last year?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, because Michael Young has spoiled everyone getting 200 hits every year and hitting .300 every year, by his standards, his year was a little off. But when you play this game for as many years as he played it, I don't know, maybe you can mention some Hall of Famers that every year they played the game they were at their very best. But I do know some that are in the Hall of Fame; I remember them having bad years, too, by their standards. You take his standard of what he put together last year and put on a player where the expectations aren't so high, it's not a bad year. By Michael Young's standards maybe you guys see it as a bad year.

Q: Was there anything in his game that alarmed you or sent a warning sign to you about him?

RON WASHINGTON: No, just showing up every day and playing his game and his, what, 12th or 13th year? Things didn't fall into place the way it did the year before or the years before, but once again, if you play this game long enough and I don't know how many people out there have played baseball at the professional level. I think if you look at your stats, you'd have an off year, too.

Q: Given the age and given the fact that it was an off year for him and given the number of infielders you have, could you see is there a scenario where he would go to camp having to earn his playing time during the season?

RON WASHINGTON: I think if you was to talk with Michael Young during training season, he's there to earn his playing time. That's all I can say is that.

Q: Talk about adding Houston to the division and that regional rivalry that you'll have with the Astros.

RON WASHINGTON: Well, I think it takes a trip away from our west coast swing, which I like the west coast swing, but it also gives us a short trip to go 30 minutes down to Houston. I've always enjoyed, and I think my players have always enjoyed, the games that we've played down there. They have a very beautiful venue to play in, and they've acquired they've hired a manager that I think will fit well with that youth they have there. I think their brand of baseball is going to surprise a lot of people, and we as the Texas Rangers will welcome the challenge of playing against them. I'm excited. And we're a long ways from Spring Training and a long ways from opening day, but I am excited.

Q: When you get to Spring Training this year, do you feel any need to even refer to last year, maybe the first day in your speech to the guys, or do you just move on from that?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, I think you always have to refer to what was previous because it wasn't successful. But it's nothing that we will harp on. It'll be something that we pass over. It'll be something that we will give every single person that will be in that clubhouse an opportunity to address, so once they address it, we've got to move forward into 2013. But it won't be anything that we'll harp on for a long period of time. It'll just be something that we'll talk about that can make us better. That's it.

Q: Is that something you'd like to see guys on the team address more than you doing it?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, I will do my part, and then I will pass it on to the players. And in the past years they've always stepped up and said what they had to say, and after they said it, we went to work. And that's what I expect this year.

Q: When you had your postseason press conference, you talked about maybe playing some of your veterans into the ground and that that was a potential reason for why things kind of fell apart right there at the end. Is there anything else after having a couple months to look back, anything else that you saw that you guys didn't do well in the last couple months or in the last couple weeks of the season?

RON WASHINGTON: I think it was obvious what we didn't do well. We didn't pitch well. We didn't hit well. We didn't do anything very well to our standards. So you know, yes, the fundamental part of the game, it's ongoing and it's always a part of the game that you have to improve upon. And I'm a fundamentalist, and we'll begin to strive to make that better as we have in the past. It just didn't work out this year, this past year.

Q: Do you think your guys got tight at all?

RON WASHINGTON: Tight? No, we never got tight. I just think once we got into the West, they were pitching rich, and in the game of baseball, it's always been said, pitching stops everything else. They stopped us. I'm not using anything as an excuse because that's not what we do. We didn't get the job done, and the teams we played that ended up taking some victories away from us, that caused us not to do what we set out to do, you give them credit.

Q: What is your feelings on Moreland as far as what he needs to do better?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, you know, the year before injuries crept in. This year I think he pulled a hamstring. We're still high on Mitch, and we certainly expect Mitch to come back and put together the year that we know he's capable of putting together. And hopefully once he does that, it can be something that we can expect for many years to come.

Q: Do you have to give him a chance against left handers?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, you know, we'll address that, and we'll see where it goes. But I think when you talk about giving a chance to do something on the baseball field, it's not me that's got to give you the chance, you've got to take that opportunity and earn it.

Q: How does Derek Holland improve?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, you know, the one thing with Derek is just trying to get him more consistent, understand that he has to learn how to use all his pitches, understanding that through the course of baseball games there's things you have to do to adjust and stop the wheels from coming off, and that's going to come with continued growth, you know. Derek has been around, I think, about four or five years, and some people want to say that he's no longer young, but he got here fast. The thing with Derek is just getting consistent. If he can ever put that together, which we do believe he will, he'll be the pitcher that we know he's capable of being.

Q: Can you talk about what a challenge (inaudible) 20 year old kid having an impact on the game?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, he impacts the game in many ways. The challenge we had was not giving him a free pass. You can't do anything about a player earning his way doing something. If he earned his way on the base path by getting base hits and things like that, we deal with it. It really affected us as a club when we gave him free passes. Not many people stopped him from stealing bags. He's a very aggressive baseball player. He's been blessed with a lot of talent. He's a very confident kid. He not only can beat you with a base hit on the infield. He can beat you with power. So guys like Trout don't come along very often. But we're not just focusing on trying to stop him. We're focused on trying to make sure that we contain that whole Anaheim team. There's nights he had go nights, and we still won. So when you start to try to put focus on one person and you forget about everybody else, you get hurt. Yes, we're doing everything we can to try to see what we could do to neutralize him, but a talent like that you might be able to contain but you certainly can't stop him.

Q: If you look at all your infielders, you've got like eight or nine of them, whatever, how much of a benefit would it be for one or two of them to be able to play the outfield?

RON WASHINGTON: Any time you can have players that are very versatile, it's beneficial.

Q: Is there any one of those guys that you would like to really focus on playing the outfield?

RON WASHINGTON: We know Mitch Moreland can play the outfield. We know Mike Oak can play the outfield. We'll see who else we decide to bring in in Spring Training. But I'm not looking for Beltre to play the outfield. I'm not looking for Elvis to play the outfield. I'm not looking for Profar to play the outfield. I'm not looking for Kinsler to play the outfield. But everyone else past that I'm not looking for Michael to play the outfield. Everyone past that, we've just got to see what we have to do and if they're able to do it.

Q: have to be able to play the outfield?

RON WASHINGTON: No, he doesn't have to be able to play the outfield, but we're very happy that he can play the outfield.

Q: You mentioned Anaheim and a tough end of last season. Is the AL West the toughest or becoming one of the toughest with the Angels and the A's and Seattle about to spend some money?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, I don't know how Seattle I really didn't try to judge Seattle on what they did against anyone else. They've always played us tough because they've always had pitching. They've always had defense out there on the field. Their issue was trying to put runs on the board. Oakland always has pitching. This past year they pitched, they had speed, they had many ways that they could hurt you and beat you in the ballgame, and they put it together. Anaheim, they've always played a brand of baseball that I grew up playing. You know, I came up with the Dodgers same as Mike Scioscia. It is tough when you start to play in that division. You have to deal with good pitching, and each one of those teams have upped their game defensively. So it's very tough.

Q: If you re sign Josh, does it impact your center field situation?

RON WASHINGTON: No. If we re sign Josh, you might see Josh in left, you might see Josh in center.

Q: What if your outfield, as it is right now on the roster with Murphy, Cruz and Gentry and Martin, do you feel like that will get the job done?

RON WASHINGTON: Yes, I do feel like that will get the job done. You cannot worry about what you don't have. You can only worry about what you do have.

Q: Elvis is down in Venezuela and said he's going to start playing Winter League and he wants to play in the World Baseball Classic. Did he discuss that with you at all?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, he didn't discuss it with me, but if he's down in Venezuela playing baseball he certainly went through the proper channels, and if he has the opportunity to play in the WBC, he went through the proper channels.

Q: You're cool with him playing?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, if he's being allowed to do it, I'm cool with it.

Q: Would you hope he doesn't go all out, though?

RON WASHINGTON: No, you can't play baseball and try to control it. You've got to play the game the way the game is supposed to be played. If you're going to control it, that's when you're going to get hurt.

Q: Now that Darvish has a season under his belt, what do you expect from him next year? And what things does he have to do during the offseason to become a premier starter?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, I think the way he's improved as the year progressed, all he has to do is continue to focus on what has to be done and focus on Darvish, focus on the Texas Rangers, and let the results right there speak for themselves as the season ended. I think he figured out just how to be Yu Darvish. Change? I don't want him to change anything. Yes, you work harder, you try to get more focused, but I thought what he did down the stretch, I felt like he found himself. I wouldn't want him to change that. So if he comes in and just be Yu Darvish, I think the results we'll get.

Q: (Inaudible).

RON WASHINGTON: Well, Dave has come into Texas and gotten with the guys that was in Texas to get to know them. He just recently made a trip down to the Dominican to get with our young kids down there. So Dave is doing everything he can to get a feel on the players that we have here in Texas and get a feel for what he can bring to help them become better.

Q: You guys know Oakland

RON WASHINGTON: Yes, know each other very well.

Q: There's no learning curve, you both know what you expect?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, I'm the manager, and I will tell him what I like to see. And he is the coach. I want him to get it to the players.

Q: What do you want to see? He's obviously a qualified hitting coach.

RON WASHINGTON: I just want to see him take the players that we have and use the best assets that they have to the best of their abilities, and then we'll make adjustments as we move on. But that's all. That's the coach's job, to take the assets that a player has and try to get the best out of it.

Q: How much does it help for your team being in the AL West and it's competitive in the AL to know that your management and Nolan are willing to spend money to keep you guys competitive? It seems like the payroll factor becomes bigger and bigger each year.

RON WASHINGTON: Well, to be successful, it costs. It just comes with the territory. And it's nice to know that our needs can be met. They're not overdoing. They're doing what needs to be done, whatever is necessary. I think as a manager that's all you want, to do what's necessary.

Q: You said that Yu Darvish found himself in the second half over the course of the season. How did that show up on the field?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, I think he was just focused on what he had to do with each hitter at the time. He went batter for batter. I think he began to use the pitches that he felt that were working for him when he came out of the bullpen more consistently instead of trying to throw the kitchen sink at these players. And for him he found out how good his fastball was, and he was able to command that, and because he was able to command that fastball, he was able to get bad swings at bad pitches. And that's the forte of good pitchers. When good pitchers are able to command the baseball, they get swings at bad pitches.

Q: Early in the season he didn't trust his fastball?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, I think early in the season, he was trying to learn the different things that it took to be successful here in the United States, different culture. I think he figured out that the only person he had to please was Yu Darvish. I mean, this guy had the whole country on his shoulders that he was trying to impress. And at some point during the season he figured it out, to just be who he was when he was in Japan. And he found a way to do it here in the United States. That's just go out there and compete and not be concerned about the results, just compete. Because if he competes and he's able to do what he needs to do, the results take care of themselves.

Q: I know you talked a little bit about Mike Napoli before, but what do you think he could bring to the Red Sox organization?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, I'm with the Texas Rangers. And I'm happy for Mike Napoli to be in Boston, but that's for Boston to find out.

Q: At this point which do you think is going to be the toughest division next year?

RON WASHINGTON: I think the West is going to continue to get better. The East has always been tough, especially with the rise of Baltimore right now, the improvement that Toronto has made. You know, the Central is young. You've got Detroit there that's a little older, but the Central is young with Minnesota. They'll certainly get it back together. Cleveland will certainly get it back together. And Kansas City is getting better with those young kids that they've got. Right now because I feel like the pitching in the West is pretty tough, the West could be tough. It's not going to be a cake walk.

Q: In the event Josh does leave, have you allowed yourself to envision a Rangers team without him next year? And what are your thoughts in that regard? How different would that be?

RON WASHINGTON: No, that's a hypothetical, and I don't deal in that because Josh hasn't gone anyplace yet. As I said, I've always been the kind of person, and I try and instill in my team, that we just try to do what we can do with what we've got. We're not going to be concerned with what we don't have. If it so happens that we lose Josh, we'll do what we have to do to continue to compete.

Q: Napoli had some durability issues with you guys. Do you chalk that up to the rigors of catching? Do you think he might be able to stay on the field more if he plays more first base?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, I think the things that happened to Nap is freak because he plays the game extremely hard. He's a winner, but as I said just earlier, he's no longer a Texas Ranger, and I really don't want to get into trying to assist Napoli because he's not here.

Q: Going back to (inaudible) for a second. What made him the best fit for your club?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, I think as a hitter when he played he was a disciplined type guy. I think it's obvious how the Boston Red Sox grind out at bats over there. That's certainly something that we as a group are capable of doing. I think he can help us understand how to use the whole field. I think because of what he's done as a pro in this game not only as a player but as a hitting coach, he brings credibility. I think he has tremendous communication skills, and all of those things come into play when you're dealing with kids that's trying to figure out how to grind out 162 game season, and they've got all of his knowledge and all his experience there. It can't do anything but help.

Q: Beltre has been able to play through some problems, physical problems like everybody else. Have you had a chance to get with him and find out how he's feeling?

RON WASHINGTON: Yeah, Beltre is fine. He started his workout. He looks good. But Beltre is one guy that I do not concern myself with. He shows up every day to play, and he shows up every day to be the best he can for his teammates, and he shows up every day to beat the opponent.

Q: Fair to say, though, that he was limited somewhat?

RON WASHINGTON: Of course he was limited with the injuries he had to deal with, but once again, we don't use that as an excuse. It happened, he had to do it, and he did it. It would have been different if it happened and he decided not to do it, but that's why he's the pro that he is.

Q: If you get him healthy, he can push (inaudible)?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, you always want your players to be healthy, and I certainly hope that he could have been healthier, but he was healthy enough to step up and play nine innings every night down the stretch, and I'm very happy for that.

Q: Do you need to maybe reduce his playing time a little bit?

RON WASHINGTON: You're asking me to reduce Beltre's playing time?

Q: Yes, that was my question. (Laughter). I mean, seriously, the guy had some physical issues last year, and he's 34.

RON WASHINGTON: It's certainly something that I will have to address, but I am not going to sit here on December the 4th and make a determination on if I'm going to pull back on Beltre's playing time.

Q: Can you talk about Elvis' importance to what you guys are trying to do?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, we brought him in as a 19 year old, and he's certainly impressed how his baseball aptitude how high his baseball aptitude is, and each year he's gotten better. He's a tremendous ballplayer. He learned baseball very well from the people that he was around as a youth growing up, and he's a winner. He's a leader. He's the reason why our success has been where it's been in the last four years. He's a big part of what we're trying to do as we move forward, and I'm more than certain that when he arrived from Venezuela into Spring Training that his goal will be to try to be a better baseball player than he was the year before.

Q: How avidly do you follow all the baseball games in the offseason? And what do you do to relax before Spring Training?

RON WASHINGTON: I think I watch a little bit of baseball coverage while the playoffs are going on if I'm not in the playoffs. And once that's over, I turn my focus to football. I think the juices start to flowing again once you come to get back into the Winter Meetings. I never stop thinking about baseball. I read all the reports on the Texas Rangers. I subscribe to MLB so I can see what's going on around the country. But I certainly don't follow it with the vigor that I follow it during the season.

Q: I think it might be too early to talk about, but as of December 4th, who do you think is your No. 1 starter?

RON WASHINGTON: It's too early to talk about.

Q: But you have enough starters already, I guess.

RON WASHINGTON: Well, you know, I think we'll decide that, and when that decision is made, I would really like to tell the player before someone else puts it out there, that's all.

Q: Are you expecting to be without any players to the WBC for part of the spring period?

RON WASHINGTON: There will be a few that we won't have, but we'll make sure that we'll try to get them as much as we possibly can before they have to leave us. But once again, they'll be in capable hands with Joe Torre. I think he understands what it takes to be prepared to compete and be successful because of all the years that he's been successful. They couldn't have hired a better guy to run the WBC on the United States side. So once again, I feel like my guys will be in capable hands, the ones that I do lose, and I feel like I will be in touch with Joe Torre often while that's going on.

Q: With Greg Maddux as the pitching coach, do you think your pitchers might get more attention?

RON WASHINGTON: I think Greg Maddux is going to give attention to every single person that's there. That's what your job is as a coach. I think the work ethic that he will instill will be for everyone that's there that's a part of the United States team, and I'm more than certain that our pitchers that may be there will follow him around a lot more often than other pitchers, but I don't think he'll be singling anyone out to give more to than the other. I think he's going to give everything he has to everyone that's there.

Q: Can you talk about what Koji brought to your organization last year, and what's it like to have him as a manager?

RON WASHINGTON: Well, I think it's obvious how Koji finished the season for us. He was outstanding. He had everything working. And we do have contact with him. Where it goes, I have nothing for you right now.