SEATTLE -- Pitching. Defense. Execution of fundamentals. The Rangers have to get better in all three areas. That was the thrust of manager Ron Washington's message to his team in a pregame meeting before the season finale against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday, and that's what the Rangers will be emphasizing as they prepare for Spring Training in 2008.
"Pitch the ball, catch the ball and execute," Washington said. "If we can get close to perfecting that, the rest will take care of itself." The Rangers went into the final game of the season with a 4.76 ERA, third highest in the American League. They had also walked the fourth most number of hitters. "Too many easy bases," Washington said. "Trust your stuff in the strike zone, put the ball in play more often and field your position." As far as defense, the Rangers went into Sunday's game with the highest number of errors and unearned runs allowed in the AL. "We've just got to catch the ball better," Washington said. "Make sure our technique is good. It has to be a priority." Offensively, the Rangers were fifth in the AL in runs scored, but Washington still wants them to execute better offensively and be better situational hitters. "Play to the situation," Washington said. "Hit a ground ball to second and move the runner from second to third. If the infield is back and giving you a run, put the ball in play between short and second. If the infield is in, make sure you get a ball that's up and you can hit a fly ball. Guys not sitting in an RBI spot in the lineup need to bunt, hit-and-run and move runners over. We need those daily if we're going to be successful." Washington also took time in the meeting to thank his players for their effort. That was the one thing he was most pleased with this season. "No doubt about it," Washington said. "I always said those guys gave me nine innings every night. Never once did I come into my office after a game and felt those guys laid down on me. That's a grand quality." As for what he learned in his first year on the job, Washington said, "I learned how to handle people better. I learned there are 25 different personalities out there and you've got to handle them personally without getting away from the main gist of what you're trying to get them to understand." No playoff share: Question: If the Phillies make postseason and win the World Series, does Art Howe get a playoff share? "I don't think so," Howe laughed. Howe was the Phillies third-base coach for a few days in November before they let him out of his contract to be the Rangers dugout coach. He might have been on a playoff team if he had not made that choice. "I really haven't thought about it," Howe said. "I'm very happy with the choice I made, but I wish the best for them. I'm pulling for them." Howe left the Phillies because of Washington, who was his third-base coach in Oakland. Washington wanted a veteran manager on the bench with him and Howe was his first choice to be his mentor. "I think [Washington] did great," Howe said. "I think he did a heckuva job. We got off to such a poor start and it could have continued all year. But we got it turned around and played well the second half. It's something to build on." Fishing almost flopped: Gerald Laird is planning to take his father fishing this week in Northern California. That expedition was almost threatened when he kept getting hit by foul balls in his final start on Saturday. He took one off his toe and another off his collarbone but was able to stay in the game. "I was thinking, 'Please don't let anything happen to this fishing trip,'" Laird said. "[Trainer Jamie Reed] came out and said, 'You really don't want to go on this fishing trip, do you?'" Jaramillo still at work: The Rangers did not take batting practice on the field on Sunday. But three hours before the final game, hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo was in the batting cage still working with hitters. He is not signed for next year. After 13 years, this could be his last game with the Rangers. He has hired an agent to negotiate a new deal, but no progress has been made. "Nothing new," Jaramillo said. "It's up to them. I have no comment on that." No complete games: The Rangers, going into Sunday's game, have now gone 190 consecutive games without a complete game from their pitcher. Their last complete game was by Kevin Millwood on Aug. 29, 2006, against the Baltimore Orioles. This is the first time since 1900 that an American League team has not thrown at least one complete game. Rangers pitchers, going back to Aug. 7, 1999, have thrown 29 complete games in their last 1,349 games. Ferguson Jenkins threw 29 complete games in 41 starts for the Rangers in 1974. He said it: "He's got some physical gifts, but I love the way he stays consistent with his approach. We play against them 20 times a year, so I've seen him run into streaks where he's not locked in, but he stays the same. There are no major overhauls. That shows you he believes in himself." -- Rangers shortstop Michael Young on Ichiro Suzuki Briefly: Young, sidelined with a strained groin, finished the season with nine home runs and 94 RBIs. He is the first player since 1997 to have more than 90 RBIs and less than 10 home runs in a season. He's the 10th player since 1972 to do it. ... The Rangers will not have a player with at least 100 runs scored or 100 RBIs. The last time that happened was in 1990.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.