Ryan says no changes for Rangers

Ryan says no changes for Rangers

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington is expected back in 2009 for at least the final year of his contract. General manager Jon Daniels is expected to be right there with him.

The Rangers are headed for their eighth losing season in the past nine years, but club president Nolan Ryan said he is not planning to make a change in the baseball leadership. Instead, his focus is on improving the team's pitching.

"They're under contract, and I anticipate them being back," Ryan said Wednesday after the Rangers' 14-4 victory over the Athletics. "There's not a reason for me today to say I'm considering anything else."

Daniels is signed through 2011. Washington, with just one more year left on his contract, was the more immediate concern, and he appeared in danger of losing his job early in the season after Texas got off to a 7-16 start. But the Rangers rebounded for a time after that and eventually improved to 60-54 at one point in early August. They've struggled since then, but not enough to prompt Ryan to consider a change. Daniels remains a strong supporter of Washington as well.

"I think Ron has done a good job," Ryan said. "He kept the ballclub playing for him under bad conditions in April. They played hard all year. With a young ballclub, that's what you look for, if they quit on a manager. They haven't done that, and that says a lot for Ron and a lot for the makeup of the ballclub. Those are important."

Washington signed a two-year contract with a club option for 2009 when he was hired as manager after the '06 season. The club announced late last season it was picking up the option for '09.

"It's a very heartfelt feeling knowing you have a job," Washington said. "I love what I'm doing. We're making progress and going in the right direction. We had four All-Stars, and we brought up a lot of young players who gained some experience. We dealt with adversity professionally, and now we continue to move forward to the next step."

His players support the decision to bring him back.

"We'd love to have this thing as stable as possible," shortstop Michael Young said. "The last thing we want is massive change. We want to be in position to take a huge step."

The Rangers are 77-82 going into the final weekend of the season, having won two more games than last season. They lead the league in offense but are last in pitching and defense. They have been clobbered by injuries, and nobody is blaming Washington for that.

"We set a record for most players injured," outfielder Milton Bradley said. "He's done a phenomenal job keep this thing patched up."

Ryan's focus is on improving the pitching, and he had a major summit meeting with Daniels and others Wednesday afternoon on that issue. The Rangers are committed to better pitching, but Ryan made it clear they won't do it by paying big dollars in the free-agent market for pitchers like C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets.

The Rangers won't be in that competition.

"I don't expect that to happen," Ryan said. "It goes against what our program is. It's a long-term commitment you have to make, and you end up overpaying. I don't see that falling into our long-range plans.

"I'm not saying we won't sign a pitcher if the right opportunity comes along. But I don't want our fans to think we're going to be in competition with three or four clubs for Sabathia or Sheets. I don't think that's realistic."

Texas had a payroll of around $70 million this season, and Ryan said he doesn't expect that to change drastically. The Rangers drew 16,832 fans to the Ballpark on Wednesday and finished with a final attendance of 1,945,587, down from 2,353,862 in 2007. It's the first time since the strike-shortened year of 1995 that they were unable to draw two million fans in a season.

Ryan said owner Tom Hicks remains committed to a long-term program of building from within and spending money on the First-Year Player Draft, farm system and international scouting. But the Rangers don't appear poised to make a major splurge in the free-agent market.

"If you look at our payroll ... I don't see a big variance next year," Ryan said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.