ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -Ron Washington is the same as he was before finally getting his chance to be a manager, approaching the game with an unbridled enthusiasm and passion.
Except for his leadership title and role with the Texas Rangers, who play Boston in their home opener Friday, nothing has really changed for Washington.
“I’m a baseball man,” Washington has said repeatedly since being hired by Texas in November.
After 10 seasons as a part-time player for five teams and 11 years as a beloved assistant coach in Oakland, Washington still is stressing fundamentals and a team-first attitude with a “keep it simple, stupid” approach.
“He has that desire every guy should have, and that’s to love the game and to cherish it and give the game whatever you can with no regrets,” catcher Gerald Laird said.
None of that has wavered for Washington after his managerial career started with Texas being swept in a three-game series at the Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers never had a lead against their AL West rivals.
“You want to win, so some frustration sets in, but we’re not going to feed on that,” Washington said. “We know we’re better than we played here. We will get better.”
After a day off at home Thursday, the Rangers begin a six-game homestand against the Red Sox. Robinson Tejeda starts Friday for Texas against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
The Rangers will miss Japanese sensation Daisuke Matsuzaka, who struck out 10 in seven innings and beat Kansas City 4-1 in his major league debut Thursday.
Washington’s managerial debut at home also be Sammy Sosa’s first home game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The stadium opened five years after Sosa played 25 games for Texas as a rookie in 1989 then was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Harold Baines.
The 38-year-old Sosa came to camp on a minor league deal after a year out of baseball and earned his roster spot by hitting .408 with five homers in 17 games. He was 1-for-7 with three strikeouts against the Angels and stayed at 588 career homers, fifth on the career list.
While Sosa tries to regain his timing in games that count, Washington is making an even bigger adjustment.
“Not being on the field, not out there getting dirty, that’s the biggest thing,” Washington said.
As Oakland’s infield instructor, Washington helped develop third baseman Eric Chavez into a six-time Gold Glove winner. The A’s led the AL in fielding percentage in 2004 and 2005 and were second last season.
Washington also was the Athletics’ third-base coach the past 10 seasons, but wasn’t chosen as their new manager when Ken Macha was fired after the playoffs.
“I’m just happy he has an opportunity to do what I think he’s going to be really good at doing. It’s just unfortunate it’s not a chance to do it here,” Chavez said.
“Ron brought a nice enthusiasm about him. The players liked him and responded to him,” said Bob Geren, who worked alongside Washington on Oakland’s staff before being promoted from bench coach to replace Macha. “He’s going to be successful in Texas, and we’re going to miss him.”
Texas is much closer than Oakland to Washington’s New Orleans home, which is still being rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. Washington expects about 10 family members from New Orleans to be at his first home game.
New Rangers center fielder Kenny Lofton has been to the playoffs 10 times with six teams in his 15 major league seasons. Playing big factors into Lofton’s decision to come to Texas were having Washington as his manager and the chance to win again.
“He wants you to go out there and work hard, but have fun,” Lofton said. “He’s been around the game for a long time. You have that, you know what it takes to win. He’s been part of winning clubs, so he understands that.”
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