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December 9, 2008
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Q. Are you here for some major league help?
RON WASHINGTON: We are always looking for major league help. You know, of course our priority is pitching.
Q. How would you feel if there were no changes, you pretty much brought back the same team?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, I think I would feel great with that, simply because we do have a lot of appreciation for the talent that we have, the young talent that we have, and our mantra is we want to try to do as much as we can from within and the experience that our young kids had last year, can't do anything but make them better.
Q. How do you assess the catching situation with Laird gone?
RON WASHINGTON: We certainly have some good ones there, and with Saltalamacchia and Teagarden, we will let those guys come in and gain some experience.
Q. What were your impressions of those two guys last season?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, I had Saltalamacchia for about a year and a half, and I knew of Teagarden my first year; he was hurt. But last year I got an opportunity to watch him play and he's been a great catch and throw guy, and he does have a feel for calling ballgames, and I think we are in pretty good shape. We get a chance, once again with our youth and to give them an opportunity to grow.
Q. Saltalamacchia working on his defense this in the off-season; what kind of a catcher is he now and what can he be?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, he's got a lot of upside. He's got a good body and he certainly has a passion for the position. He's young. We brought him from Astros to the big leagues and has a big learning curve. And we decided to go to winter ball this year and he's down there doing a very good job and I'm looking forward to him coming in and handling our pitching staff because it will be young.
Q. The improvements he needs to make: Mental or physical?
RON WASHINGTON: It's both, and at the major league level everything is both mental and physical, they say 90 percent mental and ten percent physical. I think at the catching spot, it's 90 percent physical and ten percent mental, because your job is to handle the pitcher, and that's not an easy job.
Q. What do you like about Teagarden basically?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, I just like the way he set up, the way he handles pitcher, the way he called ballgames. He certainly can throw. He has a feel. He has a feel and he's been taught very well.
Q. I think there's some offensive potential there, as well.
RON WASHINGTON: You know, if you look at his minor league stats, maybe he has not hit, but in the major league level, sometimes when you come to the major league level, you are around the plate a lot more and things begin to click. He certainly did some good things in September, and if he continues to work, you never know.
But we certainly like what we have.
Q. Do you think the people overlook the fact that Salta is the youngest, still 23?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, I don't think they overlook that. I just think that Salty has been on the scene and in the view of media and the fans, a little more often than Teagarden has.
But when you look at Salty, there's a lot of projection there, and we just hope that the experience that he had the past two years, will create something that we all hope he's been able to do and that's just get our pitchers through innings and be a leader.
Q. Do you have any predisposition towards how you'll handle the catching thing, or do you go in with an open mind?
RON WASHINGTON: I'm going in there with an open mind, and we'll just try to get them as much exposure as we possibly can and see where it goes from there.
Q. Is it just between those two guys?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, we've got Max Ramirez. We have still got Max Ramirez. We will have a few guys up in there but Salty and Teagarden and Max are the guys that are up front.
Q. If you can simply, and it not simple, improve pitching, is it simple that you can become a contender?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, talking about anything in the game of baseball, you have to have pitching, and after pitching comes defense. If things fall in our lap, we can certainly improve our pitching.
It does not have to improve greatly but we can certainly make some strides as far as the Texas Rangers organization goes.
As far as predicting things in the game of baseball, I don't predict. I can go out there and take each day for what it is and try to be the best I can. It's not always the best team that wins on the field. It's the team that plays the best and if we can go out there and what we go out there with and hit to our capabilities, I would like to be the team that plays the best on that day.
Q. Your thoughts or expectations on making a move here in Vegas?
RON WASHINGTON: Things are moving slow. Right now, it's tough to put my expectations out there because you know, things are moving slow and if there's nothing to move on, you can't expect much. I do expect us to go into spring training and prepare and try to be the best we can when the season starts.
Q. If you've covered this already, I apologize. Can you discuss the prospects that you've got in return for Laird?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, we have certainly done a good job of adding to the core that we have down there in young arms, and as many arms as you can get. Pretty soon, something will happen for you.
The more you have, the better chance you have for it to work out at the major league level. So we are very happy that we got those two arms and we are going to give them an opportunity to pitch and see where it leads.
Q. Do you have any kind of goal for your team as far as winning record, contending, winning the division?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, sitting right here right now, I haven't gotten my team together yet. But as long as we can improve on what we did last year and have some luck fall into our laps, a number, I just can't give you. But I do expect us to be better.
Q. Do you think a winning record is a reasonable goal?
RON WASHINGTON: A winning record is definitely a reasonable goal.
Q. One position that seems to be unknown is third base. What is your assessment of where you are at third base?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, right now, we have Chris Davis who we really want to put back in his spot of the future, which is first base. We have Metcalf, who is certainly one of our better prospects at third base. We will just go into camp and see what we pick up before we get there and just wait and see.
Right now, you know, that's where we stand.
Q. Do you feel like you need some reinforcement there right now?
RON WASHINGTON: We don't need reinforcement. But you know, if something is out there and it's good for us, I think we can think about it. You know, once again, our whole mantra is to try to do as much as we can from within.
Q. If you look at the lineup you had an Opening Day and what potential you have now, Milton is not in there, so you don't have a clean-up hitter. He was your good right-handed bat, and your other right-handed bat now is Nelson Cruz. Do you think in a perfect world, could you get a right-handed bat?
RON WASHINGTON: We certainly would like to get a right-handed bat. But if we don't, we'll have to make a decision on who we do have and someone will hit in the fourth spot.
Right now, it's hard for me to say because I don't want to quite say we finished doing what we have to do to put a team together going into spring training. But we will have someone hit fourth. (Laughter.)
Q. Are you committed to Cruz as your right fielder?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, what we are committed to is allowing Cruz's potential to continue to grow, especially what he showed us in September. If he can continue to improve at the rate he's going; and he's doing very well again in the Dominican. He got started this year down in AAA and didn't stop when he got to the big leagues, and maybe he finally got to the point where he then figured it out and we certainly are going to give him an opportunity to show us if he figured it out or not.
Q. On what you have right now, who is your best candidate to be the clean-up hitter?
RON WASHINGTON: Probably have to be Nelson, because I want to keep Hamilton third and I need a right-handed bat sitting in the fourth slot there; and the guy with the most potential on the right side to hit the ball out of the ballpark and create some runs quick is Nelson Cruz. I'm not saying Cruz will be sitting fourth. You're asking me what we have right now.
Q. Whatever you guys do, in the next ten months, a large part of what you need to do to improve with Cruz, he's a big wild-card on the non-pitching side; would you agree with that?
RON WASHINGTON: No, I don't think I want to try to put that type of pressure on him as being a wild-card. I think he's hit fourth all his career in the minor leagues, and once you get to the big leagues, they are usually someone already sitting there and you have to work your way around them.
But if it happened it fall, that's our choice, I would put him n there and feel comfortable with it.
Q. This guy had a break out year, and starts putting up those numbers at the major league level, he could carry you.
RON WASHINGTON: Without a doubt, and maybe he's finally turning the corner and doing what the organization always thought he could do. I'm so happy we held on to him.
We are looking for big things from everyone, not only Cruz, but we are looking for big things from everyone.
Q. Nolan was talking, he was in here earlier today, about trying to build pitchers up more, throw more innings than they have and whatnot. How important would that be to be able to have a starting rotation that would be able to give you more innings and more start and go deeper into games, and especially in this day and age when guys were out after five innings?
RON WASHINGTON: With the setup that we have in the bullpen, that would be a dream come true that we could get that kind of production out of our starting rotation, and I think it would take some pressure off the bullpen, especially when you start getting deep into the season. I don't think they would be so tired.
That's what starting pitching does; it saves your bullpen, and everyone would like to see the starter, at least give him six, and I'm no different. And as Nolan expressed, he's no different, either.
Q. So Millwood, Padilla, are the only two guys locked into the rotation? Harrison is not a lock?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, I would not say Harrison is not a lock. Harrison will come into camp with an opportunity to stay in that rotation and if he pitches and begins to show improvement as the season progresses that he's ready to be put in the rotation, knowing the type of kid he is, I know he'll come into spring training this year prepared and ready to go.
I think we have some choices. We have got some young choices. They have got their feet wet. We just hope they learned from that and gained some experience and are able to improve upon that.
Q. Right now, it's Harrison, felled man, nipper.
RON WASHINGTON: Padilla, Hurley, Hunter.
Q. You finished with felled man pitching every other day; Harrison and Nippert. That was your official end-of-the-year rotation, and McCarthy, definitely a candidate and Hurley. Right there it seems like those four are the first wave of guys who have chance; it's their job to lose.
RON WASHINGTON: Yes, they are.
Q. And guys like Hurley, who else? Gabbard?
RON WASHINGTON: Well, Gabbard got the operation at the end of the year there. We want to see just where he is when he come into spring training. He certainly will fit somewhere.
But I haven't seen him throw yet. We don't know where his progress is. We just know he's back healthy. We just have to make a call once we get him into camp and see him.
Q. Last year, you know, it was a terrible spring training, but every time we brought it up, you're like Gabbard is my guy, Gabbard is in there. It just seems like it would be hard for him to completely fall off the radar in one year in which he was injured.
RON WASHINGTON: He's not falling off the radar, but sometimes when you are not there performing, and you've got some depth, especially with the young arms, sometimes you've got to come back and you've got to prove yourself. That's only natural.
It's nothing against Gabbard. I still think Gabbard can pitch. I still think he has excellent work ethic. I still think that he has an idea of what he's doing out there. None of that has changed. But there are some people that have performed while he was out, and it's like anything else, when he come into camp, he has to perform just like everyone else for the job.
Q. So he would be -- it would be him, Mendoza, Hunter?
RON WASHINGTON: Yeah, we have quite a few of them. At least we have some depth, something we have not had in the past, a whole lot of, and the depth we have is guys that we certainly care about. If they don't make this club, at least we know we've got some depth in AAA in case something happens. In the course of a 162-game season, we have already experienced a lot that can happen.
Q. Is Holland coming into camp?
RON WASHINGTON: Yes, coming into camp as a non-roster.
Q. What did Eddie Guardado mean to you last year and would you be open to him returning?
RON WASHINGTON: I certainly would be open to him returning, but once again, that's a decision that has to be collaborated. He meant a lot I think to C.J. I think that he meant a lot to Francisco, because Eddie came in and we knew one thing that was going to happen, that the ball would be thrown over the plate and the ball would be put in play. He did a great job of doing that. When he left, we missed it.
Q. So in your bullpen, you've got Francisco as your closer, if you don't do anything else. C.J.?
RON WASHINGTON: Benoit, Madrigal, Rupe. We've just got to see where else we go.
Q. None of those guys -- some of those guys got to win jobs.
RON WASHINGTON: C.J. got to come in and all he has to do is come in, show his arm is healthy, and I think C.J. will take care of whatever slot he has to take care of in that bullpen. You know, Benoit, you all know what happened to him at the end of the year, and the progress he's making right now, he's coming along fine, so we hope to have him full strength.
Madrigal, he's young and still learning. The thing I like about him is his heart. He's not afraid. He certainly has aptitude. We just have to wait and see what falls in our lap before spring training and go from there.
End of FastScripts